Monday, May 16, 2022

Booknotes: The Civil War Abroad

New Arrival:
The Civil War Abroad: How the Great American Conflict Reached Overseas by Charles Priestley (McFarland, 2022).

Charles Priestley's The Civil War Abroad is part of a recent upsurge in the study of the international dimensions of the American Civil War. Like many popular and scholarly publications in this area, Priestley's book focuses heavily on Britain and France, but it also explores other connections. From the description: "The impact of the Civil War was felt far beyond American shores. Many sites associated with the war remain in Britain and France--the two countries most affected--and traces of it can still be found in such unlikely places as Sweden and Turkey."

More from the description: "Both Union and Confederate agents sought support overseas, aided by local sympathizers. Some Victorian Britons, despite their disdain for slavery, saw the South as an incipient nation struggling for recognition, like the Italians or the Poles, but linked to Britain by ties of blood, language and history." In that vein, one chapter looks at the pro-Confederate lobbying efforts of A.J.B. Beresford Hope, a featured topic of Michael Turner's recent study.

Priestley also seeks to add new information to otherwise well-trodden ground, one example being his coverage of the famous nautical duel fought between the USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama. He has published articles in both English and French, and this book's examination of that event utilizes French sources unused (or seldom used) in the research behind English-language writings on this popular topic.

The volume is not written as narrative history, its format being more akin to an essay collection. Many chapters began life as articles in the periodical of the UK's American Civil War Round Table (of which Priestley, a Briton, is a member). One chapter appeared previously in North & South magazine. Others originated as ACWRT presentations by the author or were published in another form in Belgium. Reworked for inclusion in this compilation, "all have been revised, extended and, where necessary, rewritten."

Through a diverse cast of featured individuals from both sides of the Atlantic, The Civil War Abroad seeks to expand our knowledge and appreciation of the war's international component.

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