A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom

A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom

by David Williams
     
 

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Bottom-up history at its very best, A People’s History of the Civil War "does for the Civil War period what Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States did for the study of American history in general" (Library Journal). Widely praised upon its initial release, it was described as "meticulously researched and

Overview

Bottom-up history at its very best, A People’s History of the Civil War "does for the Civil War period what Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States did for the study of American history in general" (Library Journal). Widely praised upon its initial release, it was described as "meticulously researched and persuasively argued" by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Historian David Williams has written the first account of the American Civil War though the eyes of ordinary people—foot soldiers, slaves, women, prisoners of war, draft resisters, Native Americans, and others. Richly illustrated with little-known anecdotes and first-hand testimony, this pathbreaking narrative moves beyond presidents and generals to tell a new and powerful story about America’s most destructive conflict.

A People’s History of the Civil War is "readable social history" that "sheds fascinating light" (Publishers Weekly) on this crucial period. In so doing it recovers the long-overlooked perspectives and forgotten voices of one of the defining chapters of American history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This hefty but readable social history by a confessed disciple of Howard Zinn reframes the Civil War as a conflict not simply between North and South but between the underclass and the power elites-both Confederate and Union. With populist zeal, Williams (Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War) catalogues the influence of the common folk-dissenters, resisters, women, nonslaveholding whites, laborers, African-Americans and Native Americans-locating the conflict's origins in class divisions in the wartime South. Williams illuminates both women's hardships and their shift into new roles (feisty Northern and Southern women became spies and soldiers). For the enlisted or conscripted common man, conditions were a far cry from those of the affluent brass, and the author emphasizes the actions of draft evaders and deserters (draft riots swept Northern cities in the summer of 1863). He details the role of resisting blacks who fought for their own freedom while Lincoln demonstrated an "ambiguous attitude towards" them. For Native Americans, Williams writes, the era marked their continued dispossession. Though Williams flattens history through a materialist lens, this account sheds fascinating light on neglected aspects of the period and will make a worthwhile companion volume to military histories. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Stereotypical images of patriotic men who unblinkingly fought to the death to defend the Union and Confederacy, women who remained at home encouraging enlistment and otherwise supporting the cause, and African Americans who patiently waited for Father Abraham to free them have been in recent years increasingly challenged by modern historians, who have moved beyond a study of the era's presidents and generals to one of its men, women, and children of different races, regions, and social classes. Williams (history, Valdosta State Univ.; Rich Man's War) presents views of the war that focus on lower-class Southern whites who resisted and resented the war; women who cursed the fighting that killed their male kin and starved and physically threatened themselves and their children; and African Americans who boldly pushed the war toward emancipation. Dealing more with class conflict than military conflict, this book does for the Civil War period what Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States did for the study of American history in general, providing alternative interpretations to counterbalance traditional historical views. Highly recommended.-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595587473
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
03/13/2012
Series:
New Press People's History
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
594
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

David Williams is the author of Rich Man's War and Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War. He is a professor of history at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.

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