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Politics of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865 narrates the history of the American Civil War. While it examines individual engagements and the overall nature of the military conflict, the focus is less on the battlefield than on political, social, and economic change in the Union and the Confederacy. Central to the account are the road to emancipation, the role of black soldiers, the nature of Abraham Lincoln’s wartime leadership, internal dissent in both the North and South, the changing position of women in both societies, and the war’s long-term economic and intellectual impact. We end with a look at the beginnings of Reconstruction during the conflict.
This course is part of the XSeries, Civil War and Reconstruction, which introduces students to the most pivotal era in American history. The Civil War transformed the nation by eliminating the threat of secession and destroying the institution of slavery. It raised questions that remain central to our understanding of ourselves as a people and a nation – the balance of power between local and national authority, the boundaries of citizenship, and the meanings of freedom and equality. This XSeries will examine the causes of the war, the road to secession, the conduct of the Civil War, the coming of emancipation, and the struggle after the war to breathe meaning into the promise of freedom for four million emancipated slaves. One theme throughout the series is what might be called the politics of history – how the world in which a historian lives affects his or her view of the past, and how historical interpretations reinforce or challenge the social order of the present.