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The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 New edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0061319297
ISBN-10: 0061319295
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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The finest work of a fine historian."--C. Vann Woodward"In contrast to so much of recent American historical writing, "The Impending Crisis "is history in the grand tradition. Its concerns are philosophical; it asks questions which have been eclipsed by newer interests. It seeks to examine the nature of the political process and the underlying patterns of historical causation. On these subjects, Potter's insights are profound and original."--Eric Foner, "The New York Times Book Review""It is magnificent."--Walter Clemons, "Newsweek"

From the Back Cover

David M. Potter's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Impending Crisis is the definitive history of antebellum America. Potter's sweeping epic masterfully charts the chaotic forces that climaxed with the outbreak of the Civil War: westward expansion, the divisive issue of slavery, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's uprising, the ascension of Abraham Lincoln, and the drama of Southern succession. Now available in a new edition, The Impending Crisis remains one of the most celebrated works of American historical writing.

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Product Details

  • Series: Torchbooks
  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New edition edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061319295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061319297
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas W. Robinson on November 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you are a Civil War buff or a student of American history, this book is a must have. It is a must read. Potter has written the definitive look at the years leading up to the Civil War, especially the 1850s. The book starts out dealing with the Wilmot Proviso in 1848 and goes right up to the firing on Fort Sumter in 1861. In between, Potter tells us of all the economic, social, and, especially, political causes of the sectional tensions.

The most brilliant thing about Potter's book seems rather simple--he tells the story as the people who lived it saw it. Too often, as Potter himself points out, historians have dealt with the 1850s as simply a precursor to the war or dealt with the issues and somewhat glossed over them because hindsight allowed them to know what was going to happen. Potter tries to leave hindsight out of it and just present the facts as they occurred in the years 1848-1861. What the reader gets is a great view of the people and events of the time as they happened and what their direct causes were.

The many other reviewers will probably do better than I can, but simply put, if you are interested in the antebellum history, the Civil War, American politics, or just looking for a good read, pick up this book. You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
This is a simply wonderful book. Every statement is footnoted, with references so copious it is mind-boggling. If he says Jefferson Davis had doubts secession, he will provide a footnote referencing a letter or document to back it up. Considering a topic as controversial and prone to apologia and ideological argument, it is a comfort to have the facts so well documented. I love his approach to history. Basically, he says " Here is one interpretation, and here are the facts to support it", then "Here is another, and here are the facts to support it", and if necessary, he points out his own argument, with facts to support it. The result is that even when he is making his own argument, he clearly leaves it to the reader to decide. I learned so much from this book. I have 30 pages to go, and it's one week overdue at the library, which is why I came to amazon.com: to see about buying it. I simply must own this book. Five enthusiastic stars!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Abraham Lincoln's 1860 election as President of the United States was the catalyst that set off the American Civil War, but this book traces the political processes that led to that result during the just over a decade between the end of the Mexican War in 1848 and the start of the Civil War with the firing on Fort Sumner in 1861.

Today it is easy to look back and regard the entire process as inevitable. What David Potter does in this classic, first published in 1976, is present the politics behind each step that pushed the sections of the country apart over the slavery issue. One apparent mystery has been what drove the astute politician Stephen Douglas to force through legislation tearing up the Compromise of 1820, which had extended a line from Missouri westward, north of which slavery would not be permitted. It was a colossal blunder that opened what had been a more or less settled issue, fanning the flames of sectionalism needlessly.

His Kansas-Nebraska Act opened those territories, north of the line, to a concept of popular sovereignty, in which those supposedly living in the territories would be allowed to vote on the issue. This may have sounded democratic, but it led to a wave of Abolitionist settlers from New England, and pro-slavery visitors from neighboring Missouri, resulting in "Bleeding Kansas", with attacks and massacres from both sides, and very little democracy. Potter shows that Douglas started from a powerful need to organize the territories so a Pacific railroad could be built, preferably from Chicago in his home state of Illinois. That simple point of departure led him into a series of moves that only deepened the sectional divide.
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Format: Paperback
(original version posted May 7, 2000)

David Potter's The Impending Crisis is the definitive account of the events leading up to the Civil War. Some works attempt to condense the causes of the war down to a few general themes such as slavery, economics, or the clash of two very different ways of life. While it was influenced by all of these things, such generalizations assume that the politicians and ordinary citizens who lived in the days before the war knew of the unimaginable horror to come.

Potter's work is rich and comprehensive, detailing the struggles and legislative battles of unyielding political forces. You get the sense of a history told in real time-- as if none of the legislators who toiled at futile efforts for legislative compromise had a real sense for what was to come (who could?). The book suggests that the causes of the war cannot be placed in a few discrete categories. In fact, you get the sense that every detail and seemingly minor event is another important link in the chain. For any history buff interested in understanding the political developments leading up to the war, or anyone looking for a good political overview, this is your first stop.
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