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A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom
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A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  104 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Moving beyond presidents and generals, 'A People's History of the Civil War' tells a new and powerful story of America's most destructive conflict. Historian David Williams presents long-overlooked perspectives and forgotten voices, offering a comprehensive account of the war to general readers.
Paperback, 594 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by New Press, The (first published 2005)
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No war has left such an impression on the American character as its civil war. That conflict (1861-1865) claimed more American lives than either World War 2 or Vietnam, and remains the only great war to have taken place on American soil. (The war of independence took place here, but didn't occupy or ravage the landscape to any comparable degree.) The memory of it lives on, especially in the south where people fly Confederate flags from their yards and speak still of states' rights and the Cause. ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
A poor book on a subject matter I’d like to better understand. His presentation was marred by repetitive and stilted language; negative even in places where it was not relevant to the main point, as if the author wanted to take a swipe on his way by. His sources, research, and examples are not up to a scholarly standard.
Nov 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
For a long time, the American Civil War became a war of valiant white Southerners fighting for "their way of life". History was re-written to be not about slavery or profits, but about "state's rights" against the government. Such figures like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis became heroes in the post-war South, while the people who fought the war were largely white-washed. Movies like "Gone With the Wind" or "Birth of a Nation" romanticize slavery and the ruling planter cla ...more
Donna Davis
With an introduction scribed by the late great Howard Zinn (and the book edited by same), I figured I just had to add this book to my collection. It bills itself as a history of the marginalized groups of this era, those seldom represented in traditional history. I found it at my favorite local used bookstore, Magus Books, which is near University of Washington, and I scooped it immediately.

The tome sat in the upstairs powder room for months, but we didn’t look at it all that often. I had troubl
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Extremely detailed history of the civil war from the point of view of ordinary white workers and farmers north and south, African-American slaves, and American Indians. A very doleful history...a history of bad faith, corruption, murder, and resistance by ordinary people.

I had not previously been aware of the degree of opposition to the Confederacy in the south, and during the war the sense of non-slave-owning whites that it was a "rich man's war." The conventions and votes for secession were c
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Although this book is largely written from an uncritically Marxist perspective in which "power elites" are vicious creatures with profit as their only motive and "good old plain folks" are plucky victims of the Man, it is very informative about the extent of corruption and cynicism on both sides during the US Civil War. Williams has an unpleasant tendency to present accusations and criticisms from a person's or group's enemies as fact (e.g., quoting anti-Lincoln articles from Democratic newspape ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A People's History of the Civil War" is a provocative book. David Williams examines the period from the perspective of the "common folk" -- soldiers, women, blacks (on both sides of the conflict). This book offers a highly detailed view of how everyday people struggled with the war and the changes it brought, offering many firsthand accounts. At its best, the text illuminates fascinating individuals whose stories have otherwise not been heard in Civil War history texts before (particularly pro- ...more
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it
I give this book 5 stars for content and 3 for read =ability. It is amazing in its examination of the class issues behind the Civil War, which is rarely discussed. It is also critical of Lincoln, which one never sees...Fielding viewpoints of poor whites, women, African Americans, and American Indians is flat out revolutionary.
In case all those lost cause southerners forgot...there were many, many poor whites that had no interest in fighting for a country established to keep wealthy whites in po
Mary Hamric
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book will cut you wide open. The Civil War was thousands of times worse than you previously imagined. It was more brutal, ruthless, violent, vile, corrupt and heinous than you realized. This book attests to these shameful facts.

The war was not universally supported on either side and was, in fact, violently opposed, particularly in the South. But not for the reasons you might assume.

The savagery of the war is revealed here. Be prepared. You may not get over it.
Adam Azzalino
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
A truly remarkable book in model of Howard Zinn and I think it stands up to his work. It dives into not just the aura of classism in the war but also the peace movements on both sides to stop it. I gave it one star shy of five because he spends far to little time talking about the political reasons for war. He talks about the secession conventions but not much about the content.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

A professor of history at Valdosta State University, David Williams received his Ph.D. in history from Auburn University in 1988. The author of numerous articles on Georgia history, the Old South, Appalachia, and the Civil War, Williams is the author of Rich Man's War: Cla
More about David Williams...
“Georgia Populist Tom Watson was the party’s most vocal advocate of black-white cooperation in facing their common economic problems. Time and again, he pointed out “the accident of color can make no difference in the interests of farmers, croppers, and laborers.”105 Watson often spoke to mixed groups of black and white farmers, always hammering home the message of their shared plight. In 1892 Watson told an audience: “You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both.” 0 likes
“Using blacks as strikebreakers had an added benefit for employers—it fomented racism, which fostered deeply entrenched divisions among the working classes and further weakened the labor movement.” 0 likes
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