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The Legacy of the Civil War Reprint Edition

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0803298019
ISBN-10: 0803298013
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

"The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner here presents his opinions on how the Civil War shaped modern America," said LJ's reviewer (LJ 5/15/61). Warren is an unbiased observer and in analyzing the causes and effects of the fighting places guilt in both camps. This remains "a timely and valuable book."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Warren brings to this task his critical acuteness as a historian . . . his verbal sensitivity as a novelist, and his insight as a poet."—David Donald, New York Times Book Review
(David Donald New York Times Book Review)

"Here is a perfect gem of a book. . . . Here is something sound and meaty about the place of the Civil War in American history and its place in American thinking."—Chicago Sunday Tribune
(Chicago Sunday Tribune)

"A brilliant piece of work, quick and sharp with insight, yet compassionate. A stimulating book."—New Yorker
(New Yorker)

"A thoughtful discussion . . . stimulating to any reader conscious of the American heritage."—Library Journal
(Library Journal)

See all Editorial Reviews
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 109 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803298013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803298019
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
The noted poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren wrote several brilliant book-length essays on various subjects, including JEFFERSON DAVIS GETS HIS CITIZENSHIP BACK (which originally appeared in THE NEW YORKER) and INTEGRATION, but none better than this miniature classic of historical interpretation. In 1961, when LIFE magazine asked him for his thoughts on the centennial of the Civil War, he wrote this superb, thoughtful essay (originally subtitled "A Meditation on the Centennial"). In an extraordinarily compressed discussion, Warren notes a dizzying variety of effects that the war and the policies it brought in its wake had on American society. His two most important observations have to do with the ways that the North and the South used the war as alibis. For the victorious North, the war was a "treasury of virtue" that excused generations of corruption, short-sighted public policy, and neglect of national interests; after all, we won the war and freed the slaves. For the defeated South, the war was "the great alibi" that excused every failure to grapple with a region's pressing social and economic problems. Warren never wrote better than in these eloquent pages; this book should be required reading for anyone interested in the Civil War in particular or American history in general. Its reappearance, with a fine introduction by Howard Jones (author of MUTINY ON THE AMISTAD and other excellent histories of the Civil War era), is cause for celebration. -- Richard B. Bernstein, Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School, and Daniel M. Lyons Visiting Professor in American History, Brooklyn College/CUNY (1997-1998)
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Chris Johnson on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Interesting little book, this. Costs next-to nothing and takes almost no time to read. But there's more here than most of the other spurious profundity published these days.
Warren, a Kentuckian whose grandfather fought for the Confederacy during that war, looks at the effects of the war on both North and South. Warren is harsh on the hypocrisy of the North and its "Treasury of Virtue" as he calls it. But he is no Lost Causer; he is equally harsh with the South, with its "Great Alibi." And Warren is scathing with those racists who believed(and still believe)themselves to be the legatees of Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. An essential book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 16, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the centennial of the Civil War approached Life magazine asked Robert Penn Warren to write an essay on the impact the war had on America. Warren, a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award and numerous other prizes accepted. This small book is the essay he wrote in 1961. While Warren never considered himself a historian, he had a lifelong love of history and published a biography on John Brown. His grandfather, who fought for the South while believing in Union, told him about the Civil War and instilled in him a love of history.

This essay is as fresh and new today as it was in 1961. Warren's thoughts on the war, what he calls "The Great Alibi" and the "Treasury of Virtue" are still accurate. This is one of the great essays on the American Civil War, the impact on American history and how it affects us today. The style of writing is interesting, intelligent and very easy to read. You will quickly be caught up in the logic even as you identify current positions and come to understand their historic importance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By texcritic on November 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren wrote this magnificent essay to discuss and outline the influences of the Civil War on the America that survived and followed the war. Perhaps chief among his points here is the claim that the war left the northern states with "the Treasury of Virtue" and the southern states with "the Great Alibi" -- collective psychological states that were to influence the nation's political, social and cultural policies and landscape for the next century. Warren also dissects the ways in which the war took a nation of disparate, separate and largely agrarian states and melded them into a singular growing industrial nation that would dominate the world over the ensuing one hundred plus years. Few studies have yielded as much insight in as short a space as this book does, as it explores, most importantly, the way the Civil War and its tragic, horrific casualties, tempered and created both the modern American culture, and the modern American mind. Highly recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. L. Marsters on December 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All Americans should read this book. An open-minded, objective Southern scholar, Robert Penn Warren has contributed prize-winning fiction, thoughtful essays and gripping poetry to the American literary landscape. It seems that his goal/desire is to help the reader understand the whys and wherefores of the mentality of the American South. That is a daunting challenge, but he has met it with grace and scholarly insight. I am a devotee of everything Warren has written, and I return to his works again and again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By KG on June 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Penn Warren was certainly an intellectual that was laying out his view of the war's legacy. I thought it was very instructive. Not an easy or casual read, but a worthwhile one.
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