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Full-Text Articles in United States History

The United States On The Eve Of The Civil War, Edward L. Ayers Jan 2011

The United States On The Eve Of The Civil War, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

The four-year war that eventually descended on the nation seemed impossible only months before it began. Powerful conflicts pulled the United States apart in the decades before 1860, but shared interests, cultures, and identities tied the country together, sometimes in new ways. So confident were they in the future that Americans expected that the forces of cohesion would triumph over the forces of division.


Dead Reckoning (Book Review), Edward L. Ayers Jan 2008

Dead Reckoning (Book Review), Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

Long before she became the first female president of Harvard University in July 2007, Drew Gilpin Faust showed herself to be an inventive, energetic, and restless historian. Her first book, in 1977, focused on a subject many people had doubted was a subject, "the intellectual in the Old South." Five years later, she produced what is still the fullest — and most disturbing — portrayal of a white Southern planter, a man who sought complete mastery over the white women in his charge as well as over the enslaved people he claimed as property.

Soon after that, in a series of brilliant ...


"Momentous Events In Small Places": The Coming Of The Civil War In Two American Communities, Edward L. Ayers Jan 2008

"Momentous Events In Small Places": The Coming Of The Civil War In Two American Communities, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

Historians, professional and otherwise, have written thousands of regimental histories, county histories, and town histories of the Civil War years. These studies make the coming of the war concrete and compelling. Inspired by such accounts, it seemed to me that two local portrayals could be even better than one, that exploring communities on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line as they each confronted the events from the late fifties to the late sixties might make both sides more comprehensible.


The American Civil War, Emancipation, And Reconstruction On The World Stage, Edward L. Ayers Jan 2006

The American Civil War, Emancipation, And Reconstruction On The World Stage, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

Americans demanded the world's attention during their Civil War and Reconstruction. Newspapers around the globe reported the latest news from the United States as one vast battle followed another, as the largest system of slavery in the world crashed into pieces, as American democracy expanded to include people who had been enslaved only a few years before.


What Caused The Civil War?, Edward L. Ayers Jan 2005

What Caused The Civil War?, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

The challenge of explaining the Civil War has led historians to seek clarity in two ways of thought. One school, the fundamentalists, emphasizes the intrinsic, inevitable conflict between slavery and free labor. The other, the revisionists, emphasizes discrete events and political structures rather than slavery itself. Both sides see crucial parts of the problem, but it has proved difficult to reconcile the perspectives because they approach the Civil War with different assumptions about what drives history.


Slavery, Economics And Constitutional Ideals, Edward L. Ayers Jan 2002

Slavery, Economics And Constitutional Ideals, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

As we think about endings, however, it is also useful to think about beginnings. That is what President Abraham Lincoln did in his Second Inaugural Address, delivered just five weeks before the surrender at Appomattox and his own assassination soon thereafter. All knew, he said reflecting sadly and thoughtfully on how the Civil War came about, that slavery was, "somehow," the cause. In fact, "somehow," however, lay puzzles, contradictions, and questions. The connections between slavery and the Civil War have concerned Americans ever since the events at Appomattox.


Civil War Visitor Center At Tredegar Iron Works (Exhibition Review), Edward L. Ayers Jun 2001

Civil War Visitor Center At Tredegar Iron Works (Exhibition Review), Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

Review of exhibition, Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works.


The Great Valley And The Meaning Of The Civil War, Edward L. Ayers Oct 2000

The Great Valley And The Meaning Of The Civil War, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

To understand the coming of the Civil War, then, we need to pick up the story before Fort Sumter and to carry it deeper than national events. We need to understand both the advocated of conflict and those who sought to avoid it regardless of the cost. We need to understand the communities people fought to defend, the institutions that held them together and that drove them apart.


W.J. Cash, The New South And The Rhetoric Of History, Edward L. Ayers Jan 1992

W.J. Cash, The New South And The Rhetoric Of History, Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

Despite the attention devoted to the fiery early chapters of The Mind of the South, where Cash's language and audacity take us by surprise, the heart of the book lies in the New South. Cash wrote above all, I think, to explain why the white Southerners he knew--those in the cotton mill country of the Carolina Piedmont--behaved the way they did. The years after Reconstruction consume two-thirds of Cash's book because those are the years that troubled him, that posed the problems he felt most acutely.


The Heart Of American History (Book Review), Edward L. Ayers Oct 1989

The Heart Of American History (Book Review), Edward L. Ayers

History Faculty Publications

Review of the book, The Heart of American History by James McPherson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989.

The era of the Civil War and Reconstruction remains the crucible of American history, the trial that decisively defined this country and its self-perceived mission. The American people seem to recognize that fact, for no era in our history attracts the general reading public as does that between 1861 and 1877.