What Caused the Civil War?: Reflections on the South and Southern History

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“An extremely good writer, [Ayers] is well worth reading . . . on the South and Southern history.”—Stephen Sears, Boston Globe
The Southern past has proven to be fertile ground for great works of history. Peculiarities of tragic proportions—a system of slavery flourishing in a land of freedom, secession and Civil War tearing at a federal Union, deep poverty persisting in a nation of fast-paced development—have fed the imaginations of some of our most accomplished historians.
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Overview

“An extremely good writer, [Ayers] is well worth reading . . . on the South and Southern history.”—Stephen Sears, Boston Globe
The Southern past has proven to be fertile ground for great works of history. Peculiarities of tragic proportions—a system of slavery flourishing in a land of freedom, secession and Civil War tearing at a federal Union, deep poverty persisting in a nation of fast-paced development—have fed the imaginations of some of our most accomplished historians.
Foremost in their ranks today is Edward L. Ayers, author of the award-winning and ongoing study of the Civil War in the heart of America, the Valley of the Shadow Project. In wide-ranging essays on the Civil War, the New South, and the twentieth-century South, Ayers turns over the rich soil of Southern life to explore the sources of the nation's and his own history. The title essay, original here, distills his vast research and offers a fresh perspective on the nation's central historical event.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bancroft Prize winner Ayers (In the Presence of Mine Enemies) offers a unique collection of deeply compelling and at times deeply personal essays in which he ponders the South, Southern identity and culture. In fact, only one of these essays deals head-on with the book's title question. In this paper, Ayers makes clear that no one neat answer-economics, the peculiar institution of slavery, or states rights-will do. A subtle combination of all these factors plus regional pride, agrarian idealism and a strong dose of Jeffersonian suspicion of federalism created the schism that led to the Civil War. Other essays take on such topics as Southern wannabes in Northern industrial centers, Reconstruction, a modern definition of the South and the "New South." Several key points run through these essays. Intent on creating a historiography with contemporary value, Ayers insists (with some reason) that the culture-both white and black-of the South has telegraphed itself in vital ways across the national landscape, pervading our roadsides, television screens, radio airwaves and computers. Southern rock is a dominant force: Elvis rules. So do Nascar, John Grisham and Civil War reenactment games for Macintosh and PC computers. Ayers, the spiritual and intellectual heir of C. Vann Woodward, takes in all of this engagingly and eloquently. (June 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Bancroft Prize winner Ayers takes time off from his "Valley of the Shadow" project on the Civil War to consider the South's history-and his history as a Southerner. With a three-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393059472
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/20/2005
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward L. Ayers is President of the University of Richmond and Professor of History. His book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, won the Bancroft Prize in 2004.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2009

    Eloquent Writer but very disappointed in content

    As a civil war buff from the south I'm always picking up a new book that catches my attention. I thought this book may really be on the "causes" of the civil war rather than on the "X" and "O's" of battle.<BR/><BR/>Unfortunately I was severely dissappointed. Almost none of the book centered around the causes of the war, either perceived or actual. Like a few authors before him, Ayers turns very quickly in the book to demeaning the south and it's intellect, heritage, and differences with the almighty can do no wrong industrialized north. <BR/><BR/>He also spends way too long puffing out his and C. Vann Woodward's chest's as awesome historians. While I am educated and can understand all the three dollar words in the book, I was tempted to skip pages due to all the pomposity in the book.<BR/><BR/>Please skip this book.<BR/><BR/>Danny Littleton<BR/>Tupelo, MS

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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