Did Democracy cause the American Civil War?

Well, no, not really. Slavery did that. But democracy — by which I mean (1) a participative relatively open political system; (2) newspapers that were often very partial and partisan; (3) a political culture in which the idea of majority rule was idealised — may well have made the war more likely. The US had the world’s first mass parties. It also was the only place in the western hemisphere in the nineteenth century in which slaveholders believed they could set up a slaveholding republic. Were these things related?

In the lecture below (and also the filmed trailer) I discuss these issues. This was a UCL ‘lunch hour lecture’ I gave in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the CIvil War.

I’ve also written a book about the Civil War, published by Palgrave in 2006.

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About aipsmith