The Civil War is Still Full of Surprises, Britannica Finds; Historians Probe Lasting Legacy of America’s Epic Conflict

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Many forgotten and overlooked aspects of the American Civil War get fresh treatment this week from historians writing on the Encyclopaedia Britannica blog.

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The things about the Civil War we don’t know, have forgotten, or misunderstand could fill a library. These essays bring fresh and surprising perspectives to this long-ago war that in many ways we’re still fighting.

Years before Southern slaves were freed after the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln considered ending slavery not with emancipation but by deporting American slaves to Africa and the Caribbean.

“His motive, though misguided, came from his profound personal fear about the oppression of the freedmen at the hands of their former masters in a post-war South,” writes historian Phillip W. Magness in a forum on the Civil War this week at the Encyclopaedia Britannica blog.

That the Great Emancipator would contemplate such a “solution” to slavery may shock Americans who admire the 16th president, but it’s just one of many little-known facts about the war that come to light in a series of posts by historians who revisit the great conflict on its 150th anniversary today.

Highlights of the forum include:

  •     the real causes of the Civil War and whether slavery, states’ rights, or both were at the root of the conflict;
  •     an essay on the “politics of remembrance,” that points to still-standing historical monuments to the Confederacy that would shock post-civil-rights-era sensibilities;
  •     an essay on the miscalculations and rhetorical failures of Lincoln and others in the run up to the war;    
  •     a consideration of the war’s human toll in the context of other, far bloodier wars of the 19th century.

“The things about the Civil War we don’t know, have forgotten, or misunderstand could fill a library,” said Michael Levy, executive editor at Encyclopaedia Britannica. “These essays bring fresh and surprising perspectives to this long-ago war that in many ways we’re still fighting.”

Also included in Britannica’s new coverage of the Civil War are a video about the often-forgotten divisions in the North, a special article, “Remembering the American Civil War,” and a Civil War crossword puzzle.

About Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a global leader in education publishing whose products are available in many media, including online, wireless devices and books. A pioneer in electronic publishing since the early 1980s, the company markets a variety of curriculum products for schools, language-study courses, online learning services, management solutions, encyclopedias and other reference works, and language products through its Merriam-Webster subsidiary. Many of them are available at britannicastore.com. The company makes its headquarters in Chicago.

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