of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War presents a
new interpretation of the sectional conflict. A one word summary of
its argument is "economics." It stands apart from the prevailing
viewpoint, which sets forth "slavery" as the cause of the
war. Somewhat more fully, the argument is: more than any other concern
the evolution of the Northern and Southern economies explains the
sectional clash. The story the book tells begins in the 1820s and
continues through the war and the triumph of a business-oriented Republican
Party in the 1880s.
|Another good summary comes
from the Civil War historian William Barney. He states: "In lively
and engaging prose, Egnal has succeeded in bringing back economics
as a core factor in the coming of the Civil War. Readers are in for
a delightful surprise as they explore his engaging analysis of how
diverging economies produced conditions that led to secession."
|Early in the writing of
Clash of Extremes, I realized that the creation of the book
was as much about a process as a product. The comments of the scholars
I thank in my Acknowledgments led me to rework the text time and again.
Arguments changed, chapters were recast, and sometimes dramatically so.
This website emphasizes that the process of revising and rethinking
does not - or should not - end with the publication of a book.
|One model is the approach
C. Vann Woodward took to The Strange Career of Jim Crow.
Woodward wrote and rewrote his book on race relations over the course
of four editions between 1955 and 1974, responding to the various
critics and new evidence.
|Few authors have the opportunity
to undertake so many revisions. But in lieu of that possibility, I've
created this website. It includes reviews (both favorable and not), blogs that discuss the
book, and the audio from several interviews. It also presents my remarks from various online exchanges that followed publication of the book.
I not only welcome but encourage readers' comments.
|Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
|NOTE: Here's the source material for the Disunion series essay, "The Greenback is Born," published on-line by the New York Times, February 27, 2012.
|ATTENTION PROFESSORS: This web site, which brings together all the reviews of a controversial book, lends itself to an excellent undergraduate exercise. Here's the essay assignment I gave to my second-year students.