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A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role…

A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War

by Amanda Foreman

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I appreciated the capsule biographies of British citizens who volunteered in the armies and navies of both the Union and the Confederacy, but I most enjoyed Foreman's detailed discussion of the two sides' diplomacy vis-a-vis Britain and France throughout the Civil War. Among other things, it fleshed out my pictures of some key leaders of Victorian Britain, such as Lord Palmerston, and of several members of the Adams family, including Henry Adams as a young man. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Excellent subject. Focuses on a wide variety of individuals across the wholespespectrum of activities in the American Civil War period. Makes for a wonderful presentation of some amazing personal interest stories. Also a thorough overview of the diplomatic and strategic concerns that affected the outcome of the war and the following era. It was almost like reading two separate works spliced together. Well worth the read to be exposed to many aspects of this period of American history that are not usually encountered in other Civil War histories. ( )
  jvandehy | Nov 22, 2012 |
A World on Fire is an exhaustive history that covers British involvement all the way through the American Civil War. Diplomatic wrangling on both sides of the ocean, the spin war waged in the British press and several personal accounts from among the hundreds of British citizens who fought on both sides of the Civil War is covered. World on Fire is very thorough and manages to introduce an angle into the American Civil War that has been little noted. ( )
1 vote queencersei | Sep 24, 2012 |
Excellent read. Ms. Foreman has done a good job not only of explaining the mutual views of Americans (and confederates) to the British, but vice versa. Also, a good thumbnail sketch of the military part of the war, and of some of the characters in that grand story. Well done, well worth the read. ( )
1 vote RobertP | Sep 15, 2012 |
This long book about the British impact on the American Civil War follows the lives, motivations and impacts of so many people there is a thirteen page cast of characters, but I was mesmerized. In the preface Amanda Foreman writes that she treats all of the significant and many of the more minor individuals in A World on Fire as if she was writing their biographies, not just compiling a general history. Her attention to those details of both her American and British subjects brings their personalities and the Anglo-American world they lived in to life on the page. Seeing the Civil War from the shifting British point of view provided an absorbing look at how public opinion can evolve, and I learned much more about the course of the Civil War and the constraints political players on both sides of the Atlantic were under than I expected.

When I read A World on Fire I alternated between the ebook version I borrowed from my library, and the hardbound copy I bought once I realized it was a book I would want to continue to reference. The hardbound copy is large and heavy so the ebook alternative is much easier to hold, but the book is filled with many illustrations, maps and photographs which don't display well on small ereader screens; they might work better on a tablet. Having both copies for reading was ideal, but I'm glad the one I purchased is the more accessible ink on paper version. ( )
1 vote Jaylia3 | Jun 25, 2012 |
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Foreman is excellent on tactics, less good on strategy. She stays at ground level, close to the combatants, which means that the war – best understood from a detached vertical distance – remains a muddle. I ended her long book unsure of why it was fought; I also ended it wondering whether the tangled mess of individual stories, like the simultaneous plots of a Victorian novel, had reached any definite conclusion. I then remembered a visit a while ago to Richmond, Virginia, where, near the state capitol, I came upon a battalion of troops in Confederate uniforms camped out for a battle re-enactment that, complete with blood-curdling rebel yells, was due to take an entire weekend. The civil war did not end in 1865. It rages on, fought not along the Mason-Dixon Line but between red and blue states, or between the patriotic heartland and the effete, expendable east and west coasts.
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(Prologue) Washington society adored the Napiers.
For seventy-five years after the War of Independence, the British approach to dealing with the Americans had boiled down to one simple tactic: to be "very civil, very firm, and to go our own way."
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Presents a history of the role of British citizens in the American Civil War that offers insight into the interdependencies of both nations and how the Union worked to block diplomatic relations between England and the Confederacy.

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