Holt, Michael. The Political Crisis of the 1850s. New York: Norton, 1978. A concise history of the partisan collapse that prefigured the sectional crisis.
Johnson, Walter. Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. An insightful cultural and economic analysis of the operation of slave markets.
Rugemer, Edward Bartlett. The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2008. A hemispheric history of the relationship between British emancipation and secession and war.
West, Elliott. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. A fascinating history of the 1859 Colorado gold rush and the competing agendas over development and settlement in the middle of the continent.
From Oxford University Press
Boritt, Gabor S., ed. Why the Civil War Came. A collection of essays by leading scholars attempting to answer the question of the title, paying particular attention to the political forces at play in the 1850s through the outbreak of hostilities.
Boritt, Gabor S. and Scott Hancock, eds. Slavery, Resistance, Freedom. A collection of essays by top historians examining how African Americans resisted slavery in the antebellum years, fought against it during the Civil War, and responded to freedom.
Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. A global history of the commercial slavery that dominated the Western Hemisphere during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Ferrie, Joseph P. Yankeys Now: Immigrants in the Antebellum United States, 1840–1860. A history of immigration during the antebellum years, which pays particular attention to the ways the immigrants and American society were transformed by the experience.
Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. Uncovers the deeply held northern beliefs–free labor above all else–that gave rise to the Republican party and held together the various factions that constituted the party’s constituency.
Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776–1854. Studies the diverse social and political contours of the American South, showing how the south engages with the nation and its politics as a region at the same time it is bedeviled by internal divisions and differences.
Holt, Michael F. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. Offers a complete history of the Whig Party, including the social forces and political issues that influenced its birth and, eventually, led to its demise in the 1850s.
Johannsen, Robert W. To the Halls of the Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagination. Argues that the war—the first to be covered extensively in the press—contributed to the evolving conception of American mission and deeply impacted the conception of national identity and America’s place in the world.
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War. From the Smithsonian Institute, this web site includes timelines, short educational movies, artifacts, documents, and much more detailing American Wars including the American Revolution, Indian wars, War of 1812, War with Mexico, and Civil War.
The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War. Through letters, speeches, diaries, newspapers, census records, and more, this web site explores life in a northern and southern town during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Africans in America. Accompanying the PBS series of the same title, this web site provides information and various primary materials on African American life and culture from the 1400s to the end of the Civil War.