America Aflame

Monday, May 16, 2011

University of North Carolina history professor David Goldfield, discusses the Civil War, the "fiery trial" that transformed the country. While others have viewed the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: the result of a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. In America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, he outlines the price of that failure and shows how the war accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union.


David Goldfield

Comments [15]


Complaints that Goldfield is a southern sympathizer are not grounded in fact or in the reading of this book; he offers a nuanced view, not blame-shifting. He is a respected member of the Southern Historical Association his book is a welcome contribution to the historiography of the Civil War.

May. 18 2011 01:46 AM

By the way, great job in misleadingly titling the book.

If the author had given it the more accurate title of:

"Yet another Southern attempt at blame-shifting and uncharacteristic pacifism"

he'd be less likely to get interviews and book reviews outside of his only natural constituency.

May. 16 2011 02:19 PM

Very great segment. Thanks!

May. 16 2011 02:11 PM
Merrill Clark from Summit, NJ

As a Mormon and a listener, I thought I should comment. First, fascinating conversation until some mildly incorrect assertions of Mormonism.Yes, the Book of Mormon has some "temporary curses" upon the people for their rejection of the truth, just like the Bible. What most people miss in the "cursed" people conversation is in the end, the "cursed" people are able to have it all, to have all the blessings, actually to be the most blessed (one sylable) people. That is some curse. That second part is never mentioned when many try to unfairly paint Mormons as racist for the "temporary" cursings in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is one of the most widely judged works by many people who have never read it. Read it and then opine.

May. 16 2011 01:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On Lincoln's interest in science, he also signed the law that created the National Academy of Sciences.

May. 16 2011 01:56 PM
Henry from Manhattan

Whew! What an interview!

Great concise responses and follow-ups on both sides; a fantastic dynamic between Lopate and Goldfield.

May. 16 2011 01:45 PM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Reconstruction was a bust, and its effect on the current socioeconomic divide, and its myriad ripple effects, is direct. The more this is acknowledged/ discussed/ addressed, the further along the path of healing we'll advance.
Very interesting segment.

May. 16 2011 01:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The Bible accepted slavery, but it didn't justify ill-treatment of slaves.

And wasn't the Republican party originally the "Democratic-Republican party"?

May. 16 2011 01:38 PM
Arlo from NYC

One alternative reality that might have led to abolition while avoiding a bloody Civil War would have been if Virginia had decided to remain neutral as Kentucky did, and as Virginia considered. This would have created a huge buffer zone between the antagonists which they would have been loath to challenge. (Note that Southern interference in Kentucky led to it joining the Union.) Having seen into the abyss of war, perhaps the warring side would have stepped back and discussed how the North could aid the South make the economic transition to a post-abolition economy.

May. 16 2011 01:33 PM
Foxiix from NYC

How much more ignorant can this guy be? The Civil War didn't do anything for the former slaves? He evidently doesn't think that selling husbands and wives away from each other, selling their children -- WHICH STOPPED after the war, means nothing to the victims of the slave trade.

Why did the southern economy collapse after the war? Because the wealth was in slave, the buying, the selling, owning, mortgaging of slaves. When they couldn't have slavery the economy went poof.

May. 16 2011 01:33 PM
Tony from Tribeca

Don't have time to go into details, but would your guest agree with those like myself who say President Grant had the most "enlightened" civil rights policies regarding African-Americans until FDR and Truman? I believe the man is very underrated, if not ignored, in this regard.

May. 16 2011 01:32 PM
Alex from NYC

Leonard Lopate: "So is slavery not an issue in the minds of many southerners?

David Goldfield: "Regrettably, that's the case."

HUH? How do the southerners with whom you live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina feel about this assertion, Dr. Goldfield?

May. 16 2011 01:29 PM

Lol. The reason there are no moderate Republicans left, is not because of a "loss of moderation", it's because the white South has completed it's journey to it's natural home.

And double lol at the thought that the harshness of the war was the cause of Jim Crow, instead of the laxness and incompleteness of Reconstruction.

May. 16 2011 01:28 PM
Tom from Upper West Side

Anyone who doubts that the Civil War "forged" the modern United States only has to realize that prior to the War, people said, "The United States are..."; after the War, the locution changed to "The United States is."

May. 16 2011 01:24 PM
a g from n j

i'd argue we are not one nation, and blue state divide. as for slavery,listen to the brian lehrer show today, and his talk with angela davis, re the "prison industrial complex." outright jim crow,has been replaced by james crow esquire/lobbyist. eliminating overt slavery was a huge accomplishment,of course. but, look at reconstruction,shortly after the civil war. and,look at the the wealth disparity today in america,between and among people of all backgrounds. it's a catastrophe.

May. 16 2011 09:29 AM

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