American Civil War

Thaddeus Stevens and the legacy of radical reconstruction

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Thaddeus Stevens may not be as famous as Abraham Lincoln, but he played a major role in defeating slavery in the US. Gary McFarlane tells the story of this radical Republican senator who pushed for a thoroughgoing transformation of the slave-owning south and for rights for ex-slaves

Not many people have heard of Thaddeus Stevens. If you've seen filmmaker Steven Spielberg's Lincoln you will be aware of his central role in the framing and passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banning slavery. Stevens has been played on film before, but as the villain.

Proclaiming the end of slavery

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In September 1862 the conclusion of the Battle of Antietam led US president Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation declaring the end of slavery. On the 150th anniversary Camilla Royle looks back at this crucial turning point in the American Civil War

In 1864 Karl Marx wrote a letter on behalf of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln congratulating him on his re-election. In it he describes the American Civil War as initiating a new era of ascendancy for the working class. The Emancipation Proclamation issued on 22 September 1862 - in which Lincoln ordered the end of slavery - helped make this war one of the most significant periods of American history.

The war that became a revolution

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The US Civil War began 150 years ago in April 1861. It ended with the abolition of slavery in the Southern states. Mark L Thomas spoke to historian James McPherson about this turning point in US history


To what extent was the Civil War a war to preserve the Union and to what extent was it a war to abolish slavery?

It was primarily a war to preserve the Union and that was the sole objective at the beginning of the war for the North. Indeed President Lincoln said on many occasions in the first year and a half of the war that it was not a war to abolish slavery.

Architects of their own liberation

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Much has been written about the American Civil War, but less is known about the decisive role of black soldiers in the conflict. Michael Bradley unearths the role of free blacks and escaped slaves whose heroism helped secure victory against the Confederate South and ended slavery.

The American Civil War of 1861-65 was the world's first truly industrial conflict. It saw the mobilisation of huge economic resources and resulted in the death of some 600,000 people. Northern supporters of "free labour" fought the Southern planter elite to decide which system would dominate the country's future.

Unfinished Business

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Brian Kelly looks at three new novels set in the period between the American Revolution and the end of the civil war that put slavery and racism centre stage.

Not so very long ago America's rulers comforted themselves with the notion that the history of the US represented a shining exception, one unmarked by brutality and oppression. They could sustain this illusion only with the help of academic historians who ignored evidence about the centrality of racism, class inequality or imperialist greed in America's past.

Bloody Streets of New York

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Martin Scorsese's new film tells of American Civil War race riots. But this is only half the story.

One icy night in 1855, the celebrated street brawler John Morrissey walked into a Broadway saloon and spat in the face of Bill 'The Butcher' Poole, the even more renowned goliath of the New York streets. Poole, who led a murderous mob of anti-Catholic 'know nothings', was the arch-foe of Morrissey and other Irish gang leaders in the pay of Tammany Hall. Morrissey tried to blow Poole's brains out with his pistol but it misfired and Butcher Bill was preparing to 'bone the Irishman's cutlet' when the police intervened.

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