A very good anecdotal history that unfortunately leaves out the best evidence.

Egnal is 100% correct in his assumption that the civil war was engineered by the north for economic reasons. Unfortunately he does not fix the blame four square and steadfast on the shoulders of Lincoln who was the hireling of the railroads who were the largest beneficiaries of the westward expansion. Go back to the debates over slavery in the western territories and you will find that the objection was not to slave ownership but was to black presence in the New Jerusalem. Lincoln’s alliance with the abolitionists only came only after he lost the 1858 Senate race to Stephen Douglas and even after winning the presidency he had to “arrange” for the first shots to be fired in much the same way that Hitler would justify his invasion of Poland three-quarters of a century later.

The book is a valuable reference and a good starting point but if you start and finish here you will only have a fraction of the story.

Clash of extremes : the economic origins of the Civil War  Marc Egnal United States ,History ,Civil War, 1861-1865 ,Economic aspects New York : Hill and Wang, c 2009 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 416 p. : ill. maps ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. 349-398) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

Clash of Extremes takes on the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles. Marc Egnal contends that economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861.

Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Egnal shows that between 1820 and 1850, patterns of trade and production drew the North and South together and allowed sectional leaders to broker a series of compromises. After mid-century, however, all that changed as the rise of the Great Lakes economy reoriented Northern trade along east-west lines. Meanwhile, in the South, soil exhaustion, concerns about the country’s westward expansion, and growing ties between the Upper South and the free states led many cotton planters to contemplate secession. The war that ensued was truly a “clash of extremes.”

Sweeping from the 1820s through Reconstruction and filled with colorful portraits of leading individuals, Clash of Extremes emphasizes economics while giving careful consideration to social conflicts, ideology, and the rise of the antislavery movement. The result is a bold reinterpretation that will challenge the way we think about the Civil War.


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