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A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil Warby Amanda Foreman
Synopses & Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
10 BEST BOOKS • THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • 2011
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The New Yorker • Chicago Tribune • The Economist • Nancy Pearl, NPR • Bloomberg.com • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly
Acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman follows the phenomenal success of her New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire with her long-awaited second work of nonfiction: the fascinating story of the American Civil War and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.
Even before the first rumblings of secession shook the halls of Congress, British involvement in the coming schism was inevitable. Britain was dependent on the South for cotton, and in turn the Confederacy relied almost exclusively on Britain for guns, bullets, and ships. The Union sought to block any diplomacy between the two and consistently teetered on the brink of war with Britain. For four years the complex web of relationships between the countries led to defeats and victories both minute and history-making. In A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman examines the fraught relations from multiple angles while she introduces characters both humble and grand, bringing them to vivid life over the course of her sweeping and brilliant narrative.
Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman has woven together their experiences to form a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. Through the eyes of these brave volunteers we see the details of the struggle for life and the great and powerful forces that threatened to demolish a nation.
In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America. A World on Fire is a complex and groundbreaking work that will surely cement Amanda Foreman’s position as one of the most influential historians of our time.
"In a dramatic change of pace, Foreman, author of the bestselling Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, fulfills her goal of capturing 'the many relationships that together formed the British-American experience during the Civil War,' from diplomatic maneuvers on both sides of the Atlantic to the sagas of British volunteers in the Union and Confederate armies. Weaving eyewitness accounts into an overview of the war's progress is tricky, particularly since Foreman includes vivid personality sketches of a very large cast of characters. But her massive text slowly comes into focus as we get to know such British participants as Illustrated London News correspondent Frank Vizetelly, whose wartime drawings are the book's visual highlight, and feisty Americans abroad, like Confederate propagandist Henry Hotze, whose masterful manipulation of the English press helped win the South sympathizers in a country where detestation of slavery was nearly universal. The North, meanwhile, struggled to repair relations after the 1861 seizure of two Confederate agents from a British ship. Whether Britain's role in the Civil War was 'crucial' remains debatable, but Foreman amply offers a new perspective on the war in an elegantly written work of old-fashioned narrative history. 32 pages of b&w photos; photos throughout; maps. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Author and historian Foreman illustrates how heavily Great Britain and its citizens were involved in the American Civil War and in how many ways. Britain depended on the South for cotton and the South depended almost exclusively on the British for armament and ships--and thousands of British citizens volunteered to fight for the Union and the Confederacy. The author tells the stories of the battles, prison camps, and cities from their perspective in the form of letters, diaries, and journals. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
“Foreman amply offers a new perspective on the war in an elegantly written work of old-fashioned narrative history.”—Publisher's Weekly, starred review
Praise from the U.K. for A World on Fire
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST
“A World on Fire is an achievement as enjoyable as it is impressive. As in a great nineteenth-century novel, a teeming cast propels this epic—the gallant and the craven, scoundrels and lovers, diplomats and freebooters—some helplessly caught in the gale, others with their hands firmly on the levers of power. Charles Dickens appears in this book; had he been an historian he might well have written it.”—Richard Snow, editor, American Heritage, 1990–2007
“This is a tale never previously told.”—Stephen Graubard, Financial Times
“Riveting . . . The reader is swept along. . . . One can hardly overestimate the brilliance of Foreman’s conception. . . . A shimmering tapestry.”—Jay Parini, The Guardian
“Amanda Foreman’s magnificent new book . . . resembles nothing so much as War and Peace.”—Adam I. P. Smith, History Today
“A real-life Gone with the Wind . . . extraordinarily rich, racy and poignant . . . an iridescent book.”—Antonia Fraser, The Mail on Sunday
“Magnificent . . . a completely fresh perspective on the first great modern conflict.”—Antony Beevor, author of D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
“The scale of Ms. Foreman’s book is epic.”—The Economist
About the Author
Amanda Foreman is a Visiting Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. She won the Whitbread Prize for Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, which was adapted for the screen as The Duchess. Educated as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College and with master’s and doctorate degrees in history from Oxford University, she is now married with five children and lives in New York.
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