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The Causes of the Civil War

Joel M. Sipress
Series Editors: Joel M. Sipress and David J. Voelker

Publication Date - July 2019

ISBN: 9780190057084

156 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Encourage your students to participate in a contested, evidence-based discourse about the human past


Embracing an argument-based model for teaching history, the Debating American History series encourages students to participate in a contested, evidence-based discourse about the human past. Each book poses a question that historians debate--How democratic was the U.S. Constitution? or Why did civil war erupt in the United States in 1861?--and provides abundant primary sources so that students can make their own efforts at interpreting the evidence. They can then use that analysis to construct answers to the big question that frames the debate and argue in support of their position.

The Causes of the Civil War poses this big question: Why did civil war erupt in the United States in 1861?


  • Organized around a big question about which historians themselves disagree: Why did civil war erupt in the United States in 1861?
  • Exposes students to rival positions about which they must make informed judgments
  • Asks students to judge the relative merits of rival positions on the basis of historical evidence
  • Requires students to develop their own positions, for which they must argue on the basis of historical evidence
  • Offers an alternative to the "coverage model" that has dominated History classrooms since the late nineteenth century, and which has consistently fallen short of its own goals since its inception
  • Concise and flexible format allows for inclusion in a variety of classroom settings
  • Each title in the series is edited by Joel M. Sipress and David J. Voelker, award-winning teachers who have published and lectured extensively on reform in the teaching of History
  • The enhanced ebook offers short video clips, flashcards, animated maps, interactive timelines, and additional primary sources

About the Author(s)

Joel M. Sipress received his PhD in US History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where he teaches US and Latin American History. He serves as coeditor of the Debating American History series with David J. Voelker.


"The advantage that Debating American History has over other projects and texts currently available is that it brings a very clear and focused organization to the notion of classroom debate. The terms of each debate are clear. The books introduce students to historiography and primary sources. Most of all, the project re-envisions the way that US history should be taught. No other textbook or set of teaching materials does what these books do when taken together as the sum of their parts."--Ian Hartman, University of Alaska

"Debating American History repositions the discipline of history as one that is rooted in discovery, investigation, and interpretation."--Ingrid Dineen-Wimberly, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Debating American History is an excellent replacement for a 'big assignment' in a course. Offering a way to add discussion to a class, it is also a perfect 'active learning' assignment, in a convenient package."--Gene Rhea Tucker, Temple College

"The author does an admirable job of presenting the political issues involved in the secession crisis of 1860-1861, a complicated and voluminous issue in which it would be easy to become bogged down in details."--Robert J. Allison, Suffolk University, Boston

"There are a wonderful array of sources in this book. The angle in which the documents are used leads to a deeper conversation about the causes of the Civil War."--Tramaine Anderson, Tarrant County College

Table of Contents

    List of Maps
    About the Author
    I. The Big Question
    II. Timeline
    III. Historians' Conversations
    Position #1: The American Civil War: Two Cultures, Separate and Hostile
    Position #2: Slavery and Its Role in the American Civil War
    Position #3: The "Irrepressible Conflict" Reconsidered: Party Breakdown and the Coming of the Civil War
    IV. Debating the Question
    A. The Sectional Crisis
    The Rise of "Free Soil" and "Southern Rights"
    Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July" (1851) and "Appeal of the Independent Democrats" (1854)
    Speeches of Senator Albert G. Brown (1859) and Representative Lucas Gartrell (1860)
    Senator Stephen A. Douglas to the Editor of the Concord (New Hampshire) State Capital Reporter (1854)
    Abraham Lincoln, Introduction to the "House Divided" Speech (1858)
    B. Case Study: The Caning of Charles Sumner
    From Charles Sumner, "The Crime Against Kansas" (1856)
    Southern Responses to the Caning of Sumner
    Northern Responses to the Caning of Sumner
    C. The Sectionalization of Politics: National Election Results, 1836-1860
    D. Secession
    Secession Documents
    E. Case Study: The Secession of Georgia
    A Timeline of Georgia's Secession
    Thomas R.R. Cobb's Secessionist Speech, November 12, 1860
    Alexander Stephens' Unionist Speech, November 14, 1860
    Joseph Brown's Secessionist Public Letter, December 7, 1860
    Alexander Stephens, "The Cornerstone Speech," March 21, 1861
    F. Lincoln's Options
    Republican Newspaper Editorials
    Horace Greeley and Secession
    Letters from Abraham Lincoln to Republican Leaders
    Abraham Lincoln to Alexander Stephens, December 22, 1860
    Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861
    Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation Calling Militia and Convening Congress, April 15, 1861
    V. Additional Resources

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