The civil war in North America between 1861 and 1865 cost around three quarters of a million lives. But the war’s significance doesn’t just lie in the scale of the violence: it is the great American story. For Amer- icans, in the words of historian Shelby Foote, it was the “crossroads of our being”. Whether the issue is the continuing struggle for racial equality, the scope of government, the place of violence in American life or the potential for war to achieve noble ends, the paths the US has taken since the civil war can be traced back to those brutal battles 150 years ago.
Was slavery the cause of the war? How different were North and South on the eve of war? Did the Constitution play a role in the development of the crisis over slavery? Why did Northerners oppose slavery? Why was Lincoln elected in 1860? Why did the South secede? Why did the North respond to secession with a war to save the Union? What was the military strategy of each side? What was the European reaction to the outbreak of war? How and why did emancipation come to be an objective of the North? Did the character of the war change? How unified was the South? How unified was the North? When and how did the war end? Why did the South lose? Conclusion Further reading
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