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A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War Hardcover – Deckle Edge

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1008 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1ST edition (June 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037550494X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375504945
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year!
The EconomistThe New York TimesThe New Yorker, The St Louis Post-Dispatch, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal all list A World on Fire as one of the best books of 2011!

"Ms. Foreman...is such an engaging writer that readers may find this 958-page volume too short."—Michael Burlingame, The Wall Street Journal
"Extraordinary cast....Thoroughly researched and well written...Remarkable."—Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The New York Times Book Review

"One puts down A World on Fire with a sense of awe. Foreman's skills as historian and writer are formidable."—The Boston Globe

"Foreman's descriptive gifts show especially well in bringing vividly to life the political and diplomatic worlds of Washington and London...A brief review can only hint at the expansive scope, rich detail and pulsing energy of A World on Fire."—The Washington Post

"[A] magisterial history."—Newsweek

"So expansive in its scope, and so well written...to call it a masterpiece somehow doesn't seem to do it justice."—Christian Science Monitor

More About the Author

Amanda Foreman is the author of the award-winning best seller, 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' (HarperCollins UK; Random House US), and 'A World on Fire: A Epic History of Two Nations Divided' (Allen Lane UK; Random House US). She lives in New York with her husband and five children.

She is the daughter of Carl Foreman, the Oscar-winning screen writer of many film classics including The Bridge on the River Kwai, High Noon, and The Guns of Navarone.

Amanda was born in London, brought up in Los Angeles, and educated in England. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University in New York. She received her doctorate in Eighteenth-Century British History from Oxford University in 1998.

'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' was a number one best seller in England, and best seller for many weeks in the United States. It has been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Turkish, Korean and Mandarin Chinese. The book was nominated for several awards and won the Whitbread Prize for Best Biography in 1999. It has inspired a television documentary, a radio play starring Dame Judi Dench; and a movie, titled 'The Duchess', starring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes.

In addition to regularly writing and reviewing for newspapers and magazines, Amanda Foreman has also served on a number of juries including The Orange Prize, the Guardian First Book Prize and the National Book Awards.

'A World on Fire' has been optioned by BBC Worldwide.

Customer Reviews

A must read for all History and Civil War enthusiasts.
The author also makes a few minor errors on military aspects of the war and other facts, but these are not too distracting.
Michael D. Fox, Ph.D
Very well researched and writes in a flowing style that just brings you along.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

168 of 179 people found the following review helpful By Anne Colamosca on June 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amanda Foreman's " World on Fire" twelve years in the making and over 900 pages long, is not for the faint-hearted. It is not "Gone with the Wind" or "War and Peace" as some reviewers have suggested. There are no page-turning romances and women are very minor characters. But for the hard-core history buff, "World on Fire" is in some ways better than these great classic novels. It's plot zigzags among 200 characters -- including farmers, soldiers, cartoonists, politicians and labor leaders. It is gritty, off-center, more alive and more disturbing than these broad ranging novels. Unsentimental and a take-no-prisoners, bracing writing style, "World on Fire" is a work of great richness and descriptive power, a complex treat for those with strong concentration powers who don't mind an often confusing and abruptly changing plot strewn with dozens and dozens of unknown characters.

Foreman's research is prodigious,forthright and robust. It includes eye-opening accounts of poorly planned advances by both Union and Confederate armies, equipment pieced together like childrens' toys, and as always in war stories, countless vignettes of scared, hard-charging soldiers who are ultimately blown apart because of bad officers and bad equipment.

The British part of this story has been, for the most part, untold and unmined. Britain's political elites make it their business to constantly upbraid Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward. Above all, despite loftier proclamations against slavery, they don't want their lucrative cotton business ruined with the South and its slave labor.
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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amanda Foreman first demonstrated her ability to bring history to life with her biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Now she has surpassed herself with A World On Fire, a magnificent history of the American Civil War and the highly important part Great Britain played during it. Most Americans who have an interest in the Civil War period will already know that both the North and the South courted British support during the conflict, and that many British subjects were either strongly pro-Federal or vehemently pro-Confederate. But few will have realized the extent to which the war dominated British politics during the 1860s and the amount of British money and the numbers of British people who took an active part in the conflict. Nor will many British or American readers have understood until now the extent to which the Civil War and Britain's response to it shaped the "special relationship" the two nations have enjoyed for over a century.

In the years before the shooting started Britain and the United States had a troubled history. Britain played a major role in the US economy, particularly through the large amount of cotton she purchased each year for her textile mills. Neither fully trusted the other. Boundary disputes over the US Canadian border and other arguments dating back to the Revolution kept Anglo-American relations tense. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 brought matters to a head, first because it led the South to secede and start to fight for its independence, and second because of Lincoln's appointment of William H. Seward as Secretary of State. Seward was ambitious to see the US grow and looked longingly north towards Britain's North American possession, Canada.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Mark bennett on July 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. It presents the American Civil War from an "outsider" prespective. Namely the British perspective. Its perspective allows it to distance itself from all the melodrama and moralizing that surrounds modern American narratives of the civil war. It is also very effective in answering how sympathy could exist within an anti-slavery Britain for the slaveholding Confederacy.

The book does well in communicating the ugly side of the Northern cause. From the crude violent raving nationalism of William Seward to the incompetent diplomatic efforts of Lincoln's government, its all here. And there is also the coverage of the war as a "international crisis" not all that different from many modern ones in other places. There is violence, there is bloodshed, there is the question of intervention on humanitarian grounds and the personal involvement of individual europeans in a conflict far away but yet not so far. But there is also the ultimate compentency of American policy in avoiding a worse-case situation. As much of a fool as Seward often acted in public, he was not a total fool in the exercise of policy.

But it also does well in dealing with the ambiguities of the Southern cause in Europe and its supporters. As well as the limits of what support they could obtain from outside and why. The question of how anti-slavery Britains could find sympathy for the slave-holding south is an important one. And one that sheds light on the moral ambiguities of the conflict as a whole. There is also the ultimate weakness of the southern cause morally due to slavery.

The book is full of interesting characters from the American diplomats to the "merchants of death" aiding the Confederates in London to the international trade in Cotton.
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