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Louis P. Masur *85 (Nick Lacy)

New book: The Civil War: A Concise History, by Louis P. Masur *85 (Oxford University Press)

The author: A professor in American institutions and values at Trinity College in Harford, Conn., Masur has written about Bruce Springsteen’s seminal album, Born to Run (Runaway Dream); events that occurred in the year 1831, marking a turning point for the young American nation (1831: Year of Eclipse); and a photograph taken in 1976 at a Boston rally against forced busing (The Soiling of Old Glory). In his latest book, the historian explores the causes and aftermath of the war whose opening battle, the Battle of Fort Sumter, occurred 150 years ago this April.
The book: This 94-page history seeks to explain, writes Masur, “what happened, how it transpired, and what it all meant.” He explores the war’s origins; the major political, social, and military events of the period; and the war itself: “its aims and methods, its costs and its results, its effects home and abroad,” he writes. Throughout the book, Masur focuses on two themes: How the war shifted from a limited conflict to restore the Union to an all-out war that would fundamentally transform Southern society, and how the conflict became a battle to abolish slavery.
Opening lines:
“Southerners who supported secession felt that they had no choice. They had tried, for more than fifty years, to make a go of the experiment in national government, but as they had feared from the start, centralized authority threatened to sweep aside local control; the federal government seemed to trample on the sovereignty of state governments. When South Carolinians seceded on December 20, 1860, they saw themselves as upholding the principle on which the American Revolution had first been fought: opposition to remote, tyrannical authority.”
Review: Booklist called The Civil War “an immaculate overview that quickly gets to the heart of the matter, precisely surveying, with keen insight, the slippery slope to war’s outbreak, which was paved with increasingly bitter opposing views on slavery and states’ rights and territorial expansion.”