Thursday, May 16, 2019

Booknotes: The Civil War from Its Origins to Reconstruction

New Arrival:
The Civil War from Its Origins to Reconstruction by James S. Pula (McFarland, 2019).

"While most Civil War histories focus on specific topics--military history, economics, politics--"James Pula's The Civil War from Its Origins to Reconstruction "presents the narrative as it unfolded against a broader historical background. Drawing on direct quotations from actual participants, the author provides an interpretive overview of the issues and events that divided and then devastated the United States."

There is certainly no great dearth of books of this kind, ones that offer textbook-style overviews of the Civil War era from early origins to or through Reconstruction. To answer the question of 'why do another one?', Pula suggests that most "focus primarily on the politics of the age," and his addresses the need for "comprehensive works designed for the public." So his book is "designed to fill that void by providing explanations and interpretations of the issues and events of the era against a general historical background of the incidents as they unfolded." The author claims that his contribution is different from most in that his book better "interweave(s) the military history of the conflict with social, economic, and political events"(Pg. 2).

The first two chapters cover U.S. history from the colonial period to 1850 while the next two examine the turmoil of the 1850s and the secession crisis. Each year of the war is discussed in its own chapter. The volume concludes with examinations of the national leadership transition after Lincoln's death and the Reconstruction period.  The book is generously illustrated and includes a nice set of maps.

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