Synopses & Reviews
In this spellbinding new history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom
. Where past scholars have interpreted the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: the result of a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. As the Second Great Awakening surged through America, political questions became matters of good and evil to be fought to the death.
The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: it made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union. The victorious North became synonymous with America as a land of innovation and industrialization, whose teeming cities offered squalor and opportunity in equal measure. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind.
Goldfield's panoramic narrative, sweeping from the 1840s to the end of Reconstruction, is studded with memorable details and luminaries such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. There are lesser known yet equally compelling characters, too, including Carl Schurz—a German immigrant, war hero, and post-war reformer—and Alexander Stephens, the urbane and intellectual vice president of the Confederacy. America Aflame is a vivid portrait of the "fiery trial" that transformed the country we live in.
"Not just a reappraisal of the Civil War, but an exemplary cultural study of 19th-century America." ---Kirkus Starred Review
"Goldfield's thought experiment in alternative history is provocative in the best sense. Most history books try to explain the past. The exceptional ones, of which America Aflame is a distinguished example, remind us that the past is ultimately as inscrutable as the future." ---The New York Times
A powerful, vividly narrated history of the Civil War era, presenting a provocative new take on the causes of America's greatest tragedy.
About the Author
David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended the University of Maryland. He is the author of many works and textbooks on Southern American history, including Still Fighting the Civil War; Southern Histories; Black, White, and Southern; and Promised Land. David Drummond has made his living as an actor for over twenty-five years, appearing on stages large and small throughout the country and in Seattle, Washington, his hometown. He has narrated over sixty audiobooks for Tantor, in genres ranging from current political commentary to historical nonfiction, from fantasy to military, and from thrillers to humor. He received an AudioFile Earphones Award for his first audiobook, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay. When not narrating, David keeps busy writing plays and stories for children.