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When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he had broader aims than simply rallying a war-weary nation. Lincoln realized that the Civil War had taken on a wider significance -- that all of Europe and Latin America was watching to see whether the United States, a beleaguered model of democracy, would indeed "perish from the earth."
In The Cause of All Nations, distinguished historian Don H. Doyle explains that the Civil War was viewed abroad as part of a much larger struggle for democracy that spanned the Atlantic Ocean, and had begun with the American and French Revolutions. While battles raged at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, a parallel contest took place abroad, both in the marbled courts of power and in the public square. Foreign observers held widely divergent views on the war -- from radicals such as Karl Marx and Giuseppe Garibaldi who called on the North to fight for liberty and equality, to aristocratic monarchists, who hoped that the collapse of the Union would strike a death blow against democratic movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Nowhere were these monarchist dreams more ominous than in Mexico, where Napoleon III sought to implement his Grand Design for a Latin Catholic empire that would thwart the spread of Anglo-Saxon democracy and use the Confederacy as a buffer state.
Hoping to capitalize on public sympathies abroad, both the Union and the Confederacy sent diplomats and special agents overseas: the South to seek recognition and support, and the North to keep European powers from interfering. Confederate agents appealed to those conservative elements who wanted the South to serve as a bulwark against radical egalitarianism. Lincoln and his Union agents overseas learned to appeal to many foreigners by embracing emancipation and casting the Union as the embattled defender of universal republican ideals, the "last best hope of earth."
A bold account of the international dimensions of America's defining conflict, The Cause of All Nations frames the Civil War as a pivotal moment in a global struggle that would decide the survival of democracy.
About the Author
Don H. Doyle is the McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. The author of several books, including Faulkner's County and Nations Divided, he lives in Columbia, South Carolina.
Bruce Levine, author of The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South At last! In a single judicious, skillfully constructed, and very well written volume, Don Doyle has given us a concise but panoramic view of the United States Civil War's impact on world history. We have needed such a book for a long time. It deserves a wide audience among scholars, teachers, students, and general readers alike.”
James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Offering new perspectives on the international dimensions of the American Civil War, Don Doyle portrays it as a world-changing conflict between liberalism and reaction. This eye-opening book leaves no doubt that Abraham Lincoln was right when he said that the whole family of man' had a stake in the war's outcome.”
Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln Unlike any recent book on America's Civil War, Don Doyle's The Cause of All Nations breaks out of the familiar North vs. South framework to view the war, often through the eyes of foreigners, as an epic battle in a global contest over basic principles of liberty, equality, and self-government. In Doyle's telling, the quintessentially American story of our Civil War' becomes an international conflict of arms and ideas, in which the future of slavery and democracy itself was at stake.”
Ted Widmer, editor of The New York Times: Disunion: Modern Historians Revisit and Reconsider the Civil War from Lincoln's Election to the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln often claimed that American democracy meant much to the rest of the world. As this wonderful book shows, his forlorn hope turned out to be true. With precision and style, The Cause of All Nations reasserts the universal relevance of the Civil War.”
Civil War Book Review Doyle has written the definitive transnational account of the American Civil War and at the same time has given much food for thought to both American historians and historians of nineteenth-century Europe on a myriad of possibilities for further exploration of the connections and comparisons between the 1860s Old and New Worlds that he has highlighted in his book.”
America's Civil War Doyle makes a compelling case that the war can be viewed as a turning point in the global growth of democratic institutions.”
War on the Rocks blog What a great book!.... The Cause of All Nations is extensively well-researched, and is a useful history of both the American story and European states' international relations during this period Above all, it sets the Civil War in its proper place in history, as a global affirmation of self-government and freedom. Anyone interested in the Civil War should have Doyle's book on his or her shelves.”
Civil War Memory An absolutely fascinating story.”
Military Heritage This work forcefully and effectively argues that the American Civil War had lasting importance not only for the United States, but also the wider world. Its points are made cogently, clearly, and with a sense of the international situation of the 1860s.”
Daily Beast Well researched, evenly balanced.... Doyle's greatest asset, as both a historian and writer, is his ability to patiently tell this story with color, verve, and flair: while also weighing in with his own expertise and commentary at crucial periods of the narrative.”
Times Literary Supplement A major contribution to the history of the American Civil War A timely reminder of the benefits of looking outwards, to Europe and the world at large.”
Daily Beast Well researched, evenly balanced Doyle's greatest asset, as both a historian and writer, is his ability to patiently tell this story with color, verve, and flair: while also weighing in with his own expertise and commentary at crucial periods of the narrative.”
History Today [A] tour de force [that] stunningly reconceives the American Civil War.”
Roanoke Times This is a significant book, coming forth in good time to put the spotlight on the Irrepressible Conflict's all-too-often unacknowledged root, and the dire consequences that grew therefrom.”
Society for U.S. Intellectual History [A] wonderfully informative and entertaining book a finely wrought narrative, with a strong underpinning of intellectual history It is Doyle's great achievement in The Cause of all Nations to remind us that the movement to end slavery in the United States was international in both scope and effect.”
Library Journal This fascinating work on the impact of the Civil War on the Atlantic world is an essential read for anyone interested in the conflict.”
Publishers Weekly Doyle lucidly contextualizes these dueling diplomatic missions within the larger machinations of European rulers.... A readable and refreshing perspective on a conflict too often understood through a purely domestic context.”
Kirkus, starred review Doyle provides some novel insights about this most chronicled of conflicts.... An importanteven necessaryaddition to the groaning shelves of Civil War volumes.”
Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2014
Economist An enlightening and compellingly written book.... More than any previous study, it tells the story of how America's civil war was perceived, debated and reacted to abroad, and how that reaction shaped the course of the war at home.”
Foreign Affairs Doyle's important book reveals why the war was more than a domestic quarrel; it was also a geopolitical event that shook the global balance of power.”
Wall Street Journal "Mr. Doyle goes beyond conventional diplomatic history to shed much new light on what he calls history's first deliberate, sustained, state-sponsored' campaign to shape foreign public opinion."
Chicago Tribune A lively and entertaining new history.... For Civil War buffs, reading the book is like arriving at your favorite restaurant from the street you never take; you know exactly where you are, but nothing looks quite the same from this angle [Doyle] similarly succeeds in telling a story that is both familiar and wholly original.”