Listeners to National Public Radio may be familiar with the popular show hosted by Diane Rehm. Rehm tackles a host of topics and issues on her segment, from current happenings and world news to human interest stories. The May 14 episode featured renowned Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dr. James McPherson. The entire program is well worth a listen and can be found online in its entirety here: http://goo.gl/Ec03qL
The bulk of the interview was focused on McPherson’s most recent work, The War that Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters. The Civil War, according to McPherson, was the central event in American history, catapulting the country into a new era. Many of the most divisive, challenging, and pressing issues which we currently face as a nation, have their roots in the traumatic and tumultuous happenings of the 1860’s. In addition, McPherson states that the American Civil War forever determined the illegality of secession, ultimately strengthened the national government and turned the country from a loose Union of states into a true nation that would in time become the most powerful on earth.
As a companion piece to the radio interview, McPherson also outlined his picks for the top six books students of the Civil War should now be reading. His picks are an interesting and varied collection of works from some of the most recognizable names in the field of Civil War history.
1) Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution by
3) Confederate Reckoning by Stephanie McCurry
4) Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War by 5) Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by 6) After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War by Gregory P. Downs
Any such list is bound to create conversation. What do you think of McPherson’s selections? If you had to create just such a list, what would your six book be, and would they feature more traditional works of military history than McPherson’s compilation? We look forward to reading what works you would recommend.