Friday, February 24, 2006
Today I am recommending David M. Potter's seminal study of the crises and conflicts which prefaced the years before the Civil War, The Impending Crisis. The reason I think other, non-historians, would benefit from this book is very simple. Potter is perhaps one of the most gifted historians I have come across in terms of boiling down incredibly complex political actions and conflicts to their essentials, without losing their messiness. On top of that Potter writes in a very readable, logical, and clear style that will be very refreshing to all historians and non-historians alike. If you ever wanted to know the real deal about the end of the Mexican-American War, the election of Zachary Taylor, the crisis over organizing the Mexican cession, the Compromise of 1850, the demise of the Whig party, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the formation of the Republican party, the Dred-Scott case, John Brown and Harper's Ferry, the inefficacy of James Buchanan, and the election of Abraham Lincoln and the events of the secession winter (1860-1861) which led to the attack by Confederate South Carolinians on Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861, then this is the best one-volume book on this whole period that has yet been written.