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A House Dividing

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858

Stephen Berry

Publication Date - 14 September 2015

ISBN: 9780199389964

120 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Bringing primary sources front and center, each book in the Dialogues in History series uses the words of the protagonists to frame an actual debate


A House Dividing: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 updates the Lincoln-Douglas debates for the sound-bite era. Instead of 100,000 words, this volume in the Dialogues in History series gives students 20,000 words from the debates. Rather than long, uncontested ramblings, it offers rapid-fire accusations and responses. Despite their reputations as intellectual heavyweights, Lincoln and Douglas were not above mudslinging; their arguments prove surprisingly studded with ad hominem attacks, political grandstanding, and gross appeals to the candidates' respective bases.

Historians generally agree on Civil War causality: a disagreement over the right of slaveholding in the territories caused secession; a disagreement over the right of secession caused the Civil War. A House Dividing places these political disagreements at the center of the narrative. Watching the cut-and-thrust of past political theater draws students into discussions of the continued importance of the political process as the place where the national agenda is set and executed.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Berry is Amanda and Greg Gregory Professor of the Civil War Era at the University of Georgia. He is the author or editor of several books, including Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War's Ragged Edges (2011) and House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War (2009).


"Berry provides students with the opportunity to delve into the heart of the Lincoln-Douglas debates so that they can wrestle with the question of slavery's expansion that especially bedeviled Americans in the years before the Civil War."--Robert Tinkler, California State University, Chico

"A House Dividing is a carefully crafted, edited version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates designed to introduce readers to the evolution of Abraham Lincoln as a politician on the national stage and the role that Stephen Douglas played in abetting that transformation."--Alan C. Downs, Georgia Southern University

"A House Dividing provides an excellent example for how oratorical give-and-take came to define the modern debate format and how Lincoln and Douglas reflected democracy at work within the confines of a capitalist marketplace. Lincoln set the tone for winning not only the day and the moment, but also in laying the foundation for a fundamental shift in vision for the democratic republic."--Steve Engle, Florida Atlantic University

"A House Dividing injects an energy and relatable excitement into the debates long lacking in other works."--Cheryl A. Wells, University of Wyoming

Table of Contents

    Editors' Preface
    Introduction: Debating America

    Chapter 1: Ottawa
    Chapter 2: Freeport
    Chapter 3: Jonesboro
    Chapter 4: Charleston
    Chapter 5: Galesburg
    Chapter 6: Quincy
    Chapter 7: Alton

    Epilogue: Lincoln at Cooper Union
    Conclusion: Lincoln Explains America to Itself
    Bibliographical Essay

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