Debate on Civil War

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American Historians’ Debate on the Civil War

The American Civil War has without a doubt left a permanent divide on this great nation’s past and present. American historians still debate the causes of a war that began in 1861 between the Union states and Confederacy states. The war can be seen as caused by the principle of slavery, the growing tension between northern and southern ideology or due to a crack in the political system of the time. United States’ history classes focus on teaching students different views as to the origin of the Civil War. Three renowned American historians who explore this topic beautifully are Eric Foner, James G. Randall, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Foner provides the best explanation to the origin of
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Schlesinger also makes the point that abolitionists were as important in the issue of slavery in the Civil War as anti-Nazis and anti-Communists are today (Schlesinger 3). Arthur Schlesinger refuted Randall’s position on the Civil War so powerfully, that he used his own words and logic against him. If James G. Randall had read the aforementioned article by Arthur M. Schlesinger, his response would be that the interpretation given by Arthur is a poor approach to history. Randall has stated in his article, The Blundering Generation, how many historians view culture issues, such as the sectionalism between the north and south in the United Sates, as inevitable causes for Civil War. However, to James Randall, many other countries face the same problems without resorting to the same measures. Randall gives the example of “Scandinavia or the Netherlands or Switzerland (Randall 3)” as countries with culture and racial issues that have not waged war for the purpose of cultural ideology, as he portrays slavery to be. Randall does not believe a moral issue like slavery to be enough of a driving force between war, especially one that produced the most American deaths than any other war. James Randall believes, “war causation tends to be ‘explained’ in terms of great forces (Randall 4).” Randall credits most of the great forces to be a result of the
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