Friday, January 16, 2009

Marc Egnal's "Clash of Extremes"

Marc Egnal is a professor of history at York University and the author of several books, including A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution and Divergent Paths: How Culture and Institutions Have Shaped North American Growth.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War, and reported the following:
Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War presents a new interpretation of the causes of the sectional conflict. It’s the first extensive rethinking of the reasons for the war since James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom appeared in 1988. If McPherson’s book can be summarized with the single word “slavery,” Clash of Extremes can be boiled down to “economics.”

The playful spirits that preside over page ninety-nines, offer up a sheet with only five words -- “Part Two: Roots of Conflict.” The first part, “An Era of Compromise,” discusses how economic ties, such as Mississippi commerce, kept the country together during the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s. Part Two looks at developments that shattered those unities. These including changing patterns of trade and the rise of antislavery. The last two parts examine the intensifying sectional clash and the period after 1861.

Readers will find that Clash of Extremes is more than a new argument about the causes of the war. It’s also a story built around the perceptions and actions of many individuals. In writing the book I was concerned to make it a “good read,” not simply a work that (I hope) will lead historians to rethink long-held assumptions about the causes of the war.
Learn more about Clash of Extremes at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue