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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Road to Disunion: Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 » User review

Good Social History of the Pre-Civil War South

  • Apr 1, 2009
Despite dreadful prose and a clear anti-southern bias that at times borders on hyperbole, Freehling does provide a well researched social and political history of the pre-Civil War south.

Freehling concentrates much of his effort on the social history of the south and shows how the United States was fractured not just north and south, but within the south as well. The social and political divisions between the upper and lower south and then further divisions within these sections are well detailed and illuminating. Freehling does a good job on the political front as well, but is stronger on the social aspects.

Several things are clear after reading Freehling and other pre-Civil War accounts of US politics and society. First, slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. I'm amazed historians continue to cling to the supposed notion that southerners were fighting over states rights. States rights was the political ideology that cloaked their tenacious fight to save slavery. And while there is no doubt they were states rightists, there was no issues that they were truly willing to go to war for (including tariffs where the political rhetoric gets pretty hot.)

Secondly, Southern society was frighteningly dysfunctional. Even had there been no civil war Southern society would have eventually withered away - but exactly how and to what consequence is unclear. It's unlikely such a schizophrenic society could last in perpetuity without imploding - slowly but surely.

Fascinating reading. Educational. But you'll have to slog through some pretty tepid prose and stick with it.

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June 13, 2009
Yes, it is a bit tedious of a read but very interesting nonetheless. There is a second volume to this that has been sitting on my to be read pile for quite some time. I need to get to it soon.
June 13, 2009
I just might read this one because although I have read a number of books on the Civil War but know little or nothing about the political divide in the South before the war. Even if as you say it can be a bit tedious this angle interests me. Good review!
About this book


From Publishers Weekly
This major work of scholarship by the author of Prelude to the Civil War offers an intimate look at the Old South and describes how the slavery issue led to successive collisions between "private despotism and public democracy." The book also provides a detailed account of how slavery functioned. Freehling's sweeping narrative traces national crises that led to secession: the Missiouri Compromise, the annexation of Texas, the Compromise Act of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Such figures as Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln stride vigorously through these pages. The study, which contributes importantly to our understanding of the causes of the Civil War, will interest readers with its brilliant evocation of the antebellum South. Illustrations.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Books, Nonfiction, American History, Civil War, William W Freehling


ISBN-10: 0195058143
ISBN-13: 978-0195058147
Author: William W. Freehling
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (September 6, 1990)

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