ny times       READ THE WHOLE REVIEW

“masterly synthesis of political, social, economic, and religious history”

“Most history books try to explain the past. The exceptional ones, of which “America Aflame” is
a distinguished example, remind us that the past is ultimately as inscrutable as the future.”

Listen to Nancy Pearl's review of
America Aflame on the NPR show, "Morning Edition"
Nov. 27, 2012.star
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   Editor Starred Review

   ( January 15, 2011)



star       Christian Science Monitor logo

“On the 150th anniversary of the onset of the US Civil War, a lively, compelling account of its roots.”

"a riveting, comprehensive, and delightful piece of historical writing. . . .“[H]e is a wonderful storyteller with a facile, compact prose style that transforms complex historical ingredients into a savory meal. While not skimping on the details, he doesn’t allow the reader to get lost in them, either.”
"A superb, stylishly written historical synthesis that insightfully foregrounds ideology, faith, and public mood ...an ambitious, engrossing interpretation with new things to say about a much-studied conflagration."  

Not just a reappraisal of the Civil War, but an exemplary cultural study of 19th-century America.

Goldfield (History/Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte; Still Fighting the Civil War , 2002, etc.) does not necessarily set out to tell a new story—"in this book, the outcome of the conflict will be the same as it is in every other book on the war.
That goes for the battles, too."

Instead, the author offers an intriguing new perspective on what he convincingly argues to be not only the defining event of 1800s America, but the defining event of our nation's entire political and cultural history.

For Goldfield, evangelical politics drives nearly every facet of the historical machinations of the period. Throughout the narrative, evangelicalism informs the debates around abolition, the Antebellum cultural conflicts born of large-scale immigration, territorial expansion and the rural religious fervor that led to the first cannon blasts at Fort Sumter. The author's examination of the intensity of individual religious thought and religiously informed social activity in the camps provides readers a new comprehension of this extraordinary war.

Although Goldfield is not the first to consider religion as a leading element in the Civil War, he elevates its influence by exploring the permeation of nearly every facet of American cultural life by religious thought. His unrelenting attention to so many of America's early cultural crannies—literary, technological, even geographical—often overlooked by past histories creates an authoritative depth to his argument. For many writers, trading in such detail might complicate the otherwise simple arguments.

However, because Goldfield writes with such veteran grace, he effectively demonstrates the complexity of the Civil War, with divisions that still reverberate in our modern political discourse.


“This masterful synthesis of the Civil War is a stunning achievement. With fresh perspective, with inspiring and often provocative ideas,"
—Orville Vernon Burton,
      author of The Age of Lincoln
Los Angeles Times logo

“Readers who wonder if there’s really much left to say about the Civil War and its impact on America will find their doubts evaporating only a few pages into this remarkable book. "– James C. Cobb,
author of Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity


“a monumental new appraisal of
the war”

Library Journal logo


"A provocatively written, scrupulously researched, and well-framed consideration of evangelical religion's questionable
role in the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods of our history.
An important book as the war's sesquicentennial approaches."

Few histories of the Civil War make the
war’s meaning and impact so central to
their narratives.”
—Gaines M. Foster,
author of Ghosts of the Confederacy
and Moral Reconstruction.


“Here is an extremely thoughtful, persuasively argued, beautifully written, and highly original look at the Civil War and its impact on the nation--both in the short and long term. ”
—Harold Holzer,
author of Lincoln President-Elect