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Publisher's Summary

In this spellbinding new history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Where past scholars have interpreted 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. As the Second Great Awakening surged through America, political questions became matters of good and evil to be fought to the death. The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: it made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union. The victorious North became synonymous with America as a land of innovation and industrialization, whose teeming cities offered squalor and opportunity in equal measure. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind. Goldfield's panoramic narrative, sweeping from the 1840s to the end of Reconstruction, is studded with memorable details and luminaries such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. There are lesser known yet equally compelling characters, too, including Carl Schurz---a German immigrant, war hero, and post-war reformer---and Alexander Stephens, the urbane and intellectual vice president of the Confederacy. America Aflame is a vivid portrait of the "fiery trial" that transformed the country we live in.

©2011 David Goldfield (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Not just a reappraisal of the Civil War, but an exemplary cultural study of 19th-century America." ( Kirkus, Starred Review)

What listeners say about America Aflame

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 02-06-2014

Great and indepth

What did you love best about America Aflame?

All the factors religion played into the events leading up to the Civil War, I had listened too Battle Cry of Freedom, and these two audio books will give a great education on the civil war.

What was one of the most memorable moments of America Aflame?

The burning of the Ursuline Convent in Boston

What about David Drummond’s performance did you like?

A even paced voice.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it was good and interesting but 27 or so hours to sit and listen it is not.

Any additional comments?

How complicit northern (New England) industry & banking was with slavery in the south.

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  • Jack Nelson
  • 06-01-2021

Divisiveness in America

Really good history of conflict and divisions in America culminating in The Civil War. Also covers Reconstruction well. Author and Narrator make it very interesting.

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  • Elisabeth
  • 07-07-2014

Slow start but keep going!

Would you listen to America Aflame again? Why?

I have listened to America Aflame twice as it is an interesting take on that period of time. I did struggle with roughly the first two hours as it takes the author a while to get going. I appreciate that maybe the information is new to people but I felt it a bit dull.

What was one of the most memorable moments of America Aflame?

The story of how Harriet B Stowe came to write Uncle Tom's Cabin was new to me and heartfelt.

What does David Drummond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Narrator was engaging and would listen to a book read by him again.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The Stowe family's heartache and then the scandals of the post- war Beecher preachers was very interesting.

Any additional comments?

The book is a slow start but very interesting and the use of personal stories to highlight the nation's struggle was very engaging.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Marcus
  • 20-06-2011

4 star battle narrative, 3 star history

This book is divided into roughly three equal sections, dealing with the causes of the civil war, the course of the war and finally it's aftermath. The best section is the course of the war and I would give this 4 stars.  My problem is with the other two sections.  Firstly the author quotes extensively from first hand accounts, which is not to my taste.  The narrative tends to drift as a range of  historical characters are used to reflect the proceedings.  Some of the stories are good but unless you have a good grasp of American history of this period you may lose the threads of the main arguments.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bruce Jardine
  • 22-07-2015

Impressive.

Would you consider the audio edition of America Aflame to be better than the print version?

Both excellent.

What other book might you compare America Aflame to, and why?

Can't compare it to another. One of the best books I have listened to.

What does David Drummond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Allows you to enter more into the seperate scenes of history.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

I would use the title itself.

Any additional comments?

A detailed and informative read.

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