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Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America
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Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  262 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
William C. Davis, one of America's best Civil War historians, here offers a definitive portrait of the Confederacy unlike any that has come before. Drawing on decades of writing and research among an unprecedented number of archives, "Look Away!" tells the story of the Confederate States of America not simply as a military saga (although it is that), but rather as a full p ...more
Hardcover, 484 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Free Press
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Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was ok
I was a bit disappointed in this book, I bought it expecting a civil and social history of the CSA told in a somewhat chronological manner, i.e as a story. Indeed, the book stats out that way, telling the story of secession and the formation of the provisional government in Mobile, but then just as as the move to Richmond is taking place (and getting really interesting to a Virginian), the author changes style and for the rest of the book each chapter covers. The topics and their coverage, which ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for so many of us who don't really know what the Confederacy was about, or what it stood for. I know many people have a vested interest in making light of slavery, and making excuses for the Confederacy.

I picked up this book figuring that there must be some positive reforms that came out of the Confederacy, but as Davis tells it, the founders were selfish hypocritical rationalizers. The Confederacy really was all about instituting a class of aristocrats to rule over the
Jim Bouchard
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Northerners, you won't truly know the South until you read this book!

The Civil War continues to shape our culture and society event today. To really appreciate your American heritage, you must learn it from various perspectives. America has no single culture, but rather has several amazing legacies. This is a wonderful look at one of them.
Most histories of the American Civil War are very heavily skewed towards the Northern point of view, particularly in terms of the behind-the-scenes political machinations and general governance of the war. That makes this book all the more interesting since a lot of the information about the politics and debates and discussions within the South about secession was completely new to me, and it was refreshing to see the alternative point-of-view from the usual Lincoln/Washington/North/abolition st ...more
Steven Peterson
Oct 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Well known historian of the Civil War, William Davis, has written a nicely done political history of the Confederate States of America. While, as the author notes (page ix), "The campaigns and battles are here," the main thrust of the book is (page x) ". . .seeks to present a comprehensive view of everything else that went into making the Confederate national experience. . . ."

There is a useful discussion early on of the nature of the Confederate Constitution. My own sense is that this could ha
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
After collecting dust for more than a year on my shelf, I decided it was finally time for this book to get my attention. At first, It looked quite promising. After reading dozens of books dealing only with the military aspect of the Confederacy, Look Away! appeared to provide a fresh new point of view giving the opportunity to learn about some aspects of the C.S.A. history often overlooked: the life outside the battlefields, and how to run a rogue nation engaged in a desperate war for its indepe ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The didactic nature of the book makes it lose a star, but it's worth reading, to be certain. Works that focus on the cultural and political side, rather than the military side, of the Civil War are too rare on the ground, and too often filled with Lost-Cause-esqe justifications that lack primary sources.

In contrast, this work is so full of such sourcing it risks drowning in them. If you want a work that breaks down the actual concepts behind secession, explains its impact on the people (includin
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Generally a good read, but by the end I felt as though each chapter was an essay that had been published elsewhere and then gathered together for this book. Facts and quotes are repeated so many times that I could almost sense them coming. I think this book could have benefited from losing about a hundred pages and just presenting the story chronologically instead of being broken down by subject matter. I'd still recommend Look Away for any serious student of the War Between the States, but not ...more
Susan Miller
I found this book added significantly to my understanding of political and business interests in the south (primarily the slave owning oligarachy) prior to and during the civil war and how these interests led to the destruction of the government and their interests. Many points made in the book shed light on attitudes about race today.
While most Civil War histories concentrate on military campaigns, Look Away! chronicles the history of the Confederacy from a political and social perspective. Its attempt to ignore military matters is almost futile given that the Confederacy was born in war and perished amid it, as its every institution (civic, social, economic) was ravaged by the war and driven into failure. The story of Look Away is one of a doomed nation, riven in contradiction from the start. Examining the feuds between the ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Look Away! is William C. Davis' social, and mainly, political history of the Confederate States of America. Davis explores the reasons the Confederacy came about, how it's government and constitution were framed (and by whom), and how that government and society worked (and largely failed to work). The author provides short summary chapters as bumpers in between the main ones to cover the course of the war, which does nicely to provide context to the rest of the narrative while still focusing on ...more
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: civil war buffs, people interested in American history
Actual rating 3.5 stars.

I gave it 4 stars because of the depth of research and the attention to detail by the author.

Unlike other history books on the Civil War, this one is far less focused on the war itself, instead examining the political, economic and social history of the Confederacy. It was interesting to see how quickly the values of the Confederacy were lost in the quest to win the war - state rights gave way to a central Confederate government that began to pass laws in direct contrast
Jason King
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
There aren't too many books I'm aware of that are written specifically from the Confederate POV, so this book is definitely a needed one. And the book underscores some critical elements about the Confederacy that often go underreported: that many of the states in the CSA entered into it with deep reluctance (and pockets in many of those states, especially in the poorest regions, tended to be the most pro-Union), that the Confederacy was populated with poor leaders and poor generals (only Lee, th ...more
Rick Edwards
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the historical work one finds on the Civil War period relate to the military and naval conflicts. Davis gives us a revealing look behind the war at the politics of the Confederate States of America. Pick up this book and learn about the different factions within the Confederacy, opposition to Jefferson Davis's presidency, and problems structuring a central government in a "confederation" as against a "union" of states. Discover problems collecting taxes, managing revenues, and dealing wi ...more
Brian Neumann
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After seeing the front cover (a Confederate battle flag), I was worried this book would be a simplistic, neo-Confederate story of resistance against "northern tyranny." It's actually a nuanced exploration of the flaws and contradictions inherent in Confederate democracy, a system that trampled on the very rights it professed to defend. The Confederate government imposed intrusive new taxes, conscripted men to fill its armies, and seized crops and supplies to feed those armies. Confederate ideolo ...more
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William C Davis' "Look Away A History of the Confederate States of America" discusses the high political leadership of the Confederacy. It covers the antebellum period through the end of the American Civil War. The relationships, goals and actions of the leadership in both the National Government and the 11 member states is discussed.

Attempting to create a new country, fight a war, and reconcile a vast disparate set of goals and agendas, all on the fly, is a challenging task. Add to this a group
Aaron Crofut
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, civil-war, war
An interesting and enjoyable work considering the Confederate States of America apart from the military aspects (as much as possible for a state that never really saw a day of peace). Davis goes into quite some detail explaining the hardships faced by the people and the governments at all levels in sustaining a living while dealing with a destructive conflict in a newly forming country. Military, political, economic, and for soldiers, civilians, and politicians alike, personal issues are all int ...more
Feb 14, 2010 rated it liked it
This was on my 'to read' list for a long time. I figured it is an area that doesn't get much attention as most books focus on the military side of things.

I learned a lot about the politics of the South during the Civil War.. and learned that just like anywhere else... the South though 'united'... had its factions as well which I think many of us tend to forget.

I also learned a lot about how much the government confiscated from the people which sort of breaks the mold of the 'free south'.

The book
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Davis' history of the Confederate government sheds welcome light on this oft-neglected aspect of the Civil War.

The book does an excellent job of showing how the delegates who gathered in Montgomery took upon themselves the responsibility for creating a government from scratch.

Davis also shows how, really from the very start, the Confederate government operated in crisis-mode & so began to crack under the pressures of war. Throughout the war, but most clearly by the end of the conflict, thi
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good overview of the different issues that faced the Confederate States of America on the home front during its four years of existence. Davis doesn't just talk about the battles or the status of slavery (though there is plenty of that) but also expands his survey to include such things as the status of women in society, Unionist dissent, military vs. civilian control, political rivalries and personal animosities, states rights, and government control of the economy.
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb book, well researched, written, and argued. Read it with Vandiver's "Their Tattered Flags" to get another perspective.
Clay Davis
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The best book I have read about the Confederacy by an author who is an expert on it.
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it
The Confederacy was more than plantatons and moonlight. This book lays out the political, social and economics that helped lead to the Civil War.William Davis makes the period come alive.
John Mosman
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Well done history of CSA, interesting how the home of state rights had it turned on its head as the war progressed.
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: slaves-civil-war
Another great big "term paper" kind of book, with over 60 pages of bibliography. At least he included some pictures, in the middle.
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in the confederacy, but not that interested in war history.
A really great history of the Confederacy. Very little focus on the Civil War, which is good if you tire of that sort of thing. Very unsympathetic to the institution of slavery, and rightfully so.
Jay Wilkins
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
A good look at the Confederacy from the political points of view, bypassing the well-worn war commentary.
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: civil-war
Some of the issues which lead to the Civil War are still with us. There is still a large population who believe that limited democracy is a good thing.
Kathy Brown
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: civil-war, 2014
Excellent book. If you want to know why the Confederacy failed, read this book.
Bill Warren
rated it really liked it
Aug 18, 2017
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Currently professor of history at Virginia Tech, William C. Davis has written over fifty books, most about the American Civil War. He has won the Jefferson Davis Prize for southern history three times, the Jules F. Landry Award for Southern history once, and has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

For several years, he was the editor of the magazine Civil War Times Illustrated. He has also
More about William C. Davis...