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A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil Warby Thomas Fleming
Synopses & Reviews
By the time John Browns body hung from the gallows for his crimes at Harpers Ferry, abolitionists had made him a holy martyr” in the fight against Southern slave owners. But Northern hatred for Southerners had been long in the making. Northern rage was born in the conviction that New England, whose spokesmen and militia had begun the American Revolution, should have been the leaders of the new nation. Instead, they had been displaced by southerners, slavocrats,” men like Thomas Jefferson. And Northern envy only exacerbated the Souths greatest fear—race war. In the sixty years preceding the outbreak of civil war, Northern and Southern fanatics ramped up the struggle over slavery. By the time they had become intractable enemies, only the tragedy of a bloody Civil War could save the Union.
In this riveting and character-driven history, one of Americas most respected historians traces the disease in the public mind”—distortions of reality that seized large numbers of Americans—in the decades-long run-up to the Civil War.
"Always a quirky, contrarian writer-historian, the prolific Fleming (Washington's Secret War) offers what he deems a fresh take on the causes of the Civil War. But despite its subtitle, his interpretation isn't new, and it doesn't hold up. Fleming's argument — that fanatics in the North and South drove the nation into avoidable conflict in 1861 — was also the argument of a few mid-20th-century historians, like James G. Randall, who called the war's belligerents a 'blundering generation.' If only reason had prevailed, they wistfully regretted, slavery would have withered from within, and all would have been well. But this stance — which is Fleming's — ignores recent scholarship, which has found that slavery likely would have endured. It also requires Fleming to ignore the war's profound moral issue, viz. that slavery is an evil. Surely there was much fanaticism, and some slaves were raising themselves up by 'mastering the technology of the South's agriculture as well as the psychology of leadership.' Perhaps change was possible — but it would have been a creeping transformation carried out over decades on the backs of over 3 million slaves, and it would've deeply scarred the nation's moral and international standing. This book can serve neither as a reliable guide to the past, nor as authoritative argument and scholarship. Agent: Deborah Grosvenor, Grosvenor Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A distinguished historian explores why the United States became the only nation to fight a war to end slavery.
In this riveting, character-driven history, one of our most respected historians traces the diseases in the public mindandmdash;the distortions of realityandmdash;that destroyed George Washington's vision of a united America and inflicted the tragedy that still divide's the nation's soul.
In this riveting history, one of Americaand#8217;s most respected historians traces the and#147;disease in the public mindand#8221;andmdash;distortions of reality that seized many Americansandmdash;in the decadesandndash;long buildup to the Civil War.
and#147;A Disease in the Public Mind is not simply a thoughtful read, it is another call never to forget our sordid past, to face and conquer our fears.and#8221;andmdash;New York Journal of Books
and#147;A great deal of fine scholarship.and#133; Well researched and well-written.and#133; [A] superbly revisionist book.and#8221;andmdash;Wall Street Journal
and#147;The very essence of good history.and#8221;andmdash;Roanoke Times
About the Author
Thomas Fleming is a distinguished historian and author of more than fifty books. A frequent guest on PBS, AandE, and the History Channel, Fleming has contributed articles to American Heritage, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, and many other magazines. He lives in New York City.
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History and Social Science » Military » Civil War » General