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A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided

A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided [Kindle Edition]

Dr Amanda Foreman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Amanda Foreman's magnificent book provides a completely fresh perspective on the first great modern conflict. Weaving together a vast panoply of people and events, it dramatically brings alive this extraordinary period on British and American history. (Antony Beevor )

It rolls along with the ragged grandeur of one of Ulysses S. Grant's infantry battalions. If you've an appetite for serious history, you'll be in hog-heaven. (Sam Leith Spectator )

'A World on Fire is an achievement as enjoyable as it is impressive. As in a great nineteenth-century novel, a teeming cast propels this epic - the gallant and the craven, scoundrels and lovers, diplomats and freebooters - some helplessly caught in the gale, others with their hands firmly on the levers of power. Charles Dickens appears in this book; had he been an historian he might well have written it.' (Richard Snow, Editor American Heritage, 1990-2007 )

A World on Fire is a staggering achievement. (Christopher Silvester Daily Express )

Here is an iridescent book; vivid like a rainbow but rather more substantial...The book is like Gone With The Wind but with the true history inserted, and even more importantly, it is a biography of two people at an epic moment in their shared history. Anger, resentment, sympathy, loyalty, all the emotions that characterise Anglo-American relations today, can be traced back to this period. (Antonia Fraser Mail on Sunday )

Product Description

'No two nations have ever existed on the face of the earth which could do each other so much good or so much harm'

President Buchanan, State of the Nation Address, 1859

A World on Fire tells, with extraordinary sweep, one of the least known great stories of British and American history.

As America descended into Civil War, British loyalties were torn between support for the North, which was against slavery, and defending the South, which portrayed itself as bravely fighting for its independence. Rallying to their respective causes, thousands of Britons went to America as soldiers - fighting for both Union and Confederacy - racing ships through the Northern blockades, and as observers, nurses, adventurers, guerillas and spies.

At the heart of this international conflict lay a complicated and at times tortuous relationship between four individuals: Lord Lyons, the painfully shy British Ambassador in Washington; William Seward, the blustering US Secretary of State; Charles Francis Adams, the dry but fiercely patriotic U.S. ambassador in London; and the restless and abrasive Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell. Despite their efforts, and sometimes as a result of them, America and Britain came within a whisker of declaring war on each other twice in four years.

The diplomatic story is only one element in this gloriously multifaceted book. Using a wealth of previously unpublished letters and journals, Amanda Foreman gives fresh accounts of Civil War battles by seeing them through the eyes of British journalists and myriad soldiers on both sides, from flamboyant cavalry commanders to forcibly conscripted private soldiers. She also shows how the War took place in England, from the Confederacy's secret ship-building programme in Liverpool to the desperate efforts of its propagandists and emissaries - male and female - to influence British public opinion. She even shows how one of the most famous set-piece naval encounters of the War was fought, remarkably, in the English Channel.

Foreman tells this epic yet intimate story of enormous personalities, tense diplomacy and torn loyalties as history in the round, captivating her readers with the experience of total immersion in this titanic conflict.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 35495 KB
  • Print Length: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Jun 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0055MZURQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #130,022 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Amanda Foreman is the award-winning historian and internationally best-selling author of 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' and 'A World on Fire'. She is also the recipient of the 1998 Whitbread Award for Biography. 'Georgiana' has been translated into a dozen languages and inspired a television documentary, a radio play starting Dame Judi Dench, and an Oscar winning feature film, 'The Duchess', staring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. 'A World on Fire' was published in the UK in fall 2010 to critical acclaim, and is slated for release in the US in summer 2011.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In the immortal advice to a tourist were I start to a journey into examining the American Civil War it wouldn't be from this point. By any standards "A World on Fire" by Amanda Foreman is a big narrative history which self proclaims itself to be "epic" in its title and it certainly is a beast when its comes to size (frankly my arm ached holding it) and scale amounting to 816 pages of narrative and a further 100+ of detailed sources. Some other reviewers have rightly complained about the lack of a bibliography. All I would say was that if one was added you would need to take our hernia insurance to read this book, although the lavish illustrations are some compensation.

Foreman's underpinning concept is however a very interesting angle namely a transatlantic view of the American civil war one of the most fascinating of all modern conflicts and which has attracted huge historical attention. Thus rather than another book primarily about the "usual suspects" namely Lincoln, Lee, Sherman, Grant and Forest we have a different set of protagonists most notably Lord Lyons the UK ambassador to Washington and possibly one of the most introverted men who ever lived; US Secretary of State William Seward already charted in humongous detail in Doris Kearns Goodwin's truly epic "Team of Rivals"; Charles Francis Adams the grandson of the great John Adams and US ambassador to the Court St James and the spiky Lord John Russell the English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century and was the Foreign Secretary throughout the course of the Civil War.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Epic 25 Jan 2011
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is an absolute monster. It weighs a tonne, the hardback edition coming in at over eight hundred pages of text, it was so heavy I could not read it in bed without straining my wrists. It seems daunting, not only in size, but in scope. It really is what the word epic was invented for.

Foreman attempts to cover a great deal of ground, and when you start to understand what she is doing, it is a wonder the book wasn't considerably weightier. It is an account of the history of the American Civil War, and a story about the people involved in it from their letters and firsthand accounts, as well as the history of the relations between Britain and America at the time. In the introduction she compares her attempt to the RSC's in the round production of Charles Dicken's Nicholas Nickleby, and terms her book as 'history in the round.'

I for one, really enjoyed this approach. I found it engaging and enthralling in equal measure. I understand other reviewers have taken issue with the historical accuracy of some of the points Foreman makes in the book. I cannot possibly comment on this, being about as far from expert on the history of the American civil war as you are likely to get. What I do know however is that in dealing with such a monumental event, in what is a relatively few number of pages, given the complexity of the subject matter, Foreman was always going to upset somebody. Not everything could be included. That her approach is more populist than academic textbook is an utter relief to me. If someone had said to me I would read the best part of 800 pages on the subject of the American Civil War and enjoy it, I would have found it hard to believe before reading this book.

Foreman writes with charm. She engages you as the reader.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical Integrity 31 Jan 2011
By Merlin
I have just completed A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman's staggering achievement which has been compared to both Gone With The Wind and War and Peace by serious and eminent reviewers. Although I had read and admired Ms Foreman's previous book, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, I was half prepared to be disappointed based upon the high expectations I had following these and the other accolades she had already received. But no - to the contrary, over 5 glorious days I was swept away by the simple beauty of Ms Foreman's prose and her page turning story telling skills...She tackled one of the most forensically scrutinised subjects in history, the American Civil War and yet somehow she mined fresh and fascinating new perspectives. Her scope is vast and the historical sweep is global yet her book remains intimate and hugely entertaining!
Words like masterpiece, tour de force and magnificent are applied far too easily these days but it is without hesitation that I readily apply them now to Ms Foreman's latest book. Do not be daunted by its length...It is indeed as most reviewers have already declared, a towering achievement and a truly great read!
I have entitled my review "Critical Integrity" for a reason. Anyone who has actually completed a book ( published or not) knows so well that the lonely often selfish and endless journey is riddled with emotion, conflict, guilt, elation, disappointment and sleepless nights....It is never an easy journey. It may be thrilling and indeed in many ways it can be rewarding... Certainly it is always challenging....but it is never easy...
Published writers like all others in the hazardous arena of public opinion rightly face scrutiny of their work... Indeed the internet has empowered us all with the ability to express a personal view...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
When I purchased this book over a year ago, I sensed that I would be undertaking an Olympian journey because there is much more about the history of the American Civil War than... Read more
Published 24 days ago by MONTGOMERY
4.0 out of 5 stars Four books in one
A World on Fire is a very fat book which has four thinner books struggling to get out.

First, and most interesting, is a detailed history of diplomatic relations between... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Matthew Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars Relationship between the United States and Great Britain in a new...
The book is extremely interesting and informative about the difficult relationship between the two so called cousins that lasted into the 1870s. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. L. Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars very well written account of Britains, and Britons involvement in the...
this is a very well written book, and despite its size I romped through it, due to its style and the adroit use of her research. i truly cannot understand those who say it is dry. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Julian
5.0 out of 5 stars History in Depth
This is a long and detailed account of a period in the history of Britain and America that I have found utterly absorbing, in that it makes clear the very wide range of factors... Read more
Published 5 months ago by JWB
5.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding read.
This is a balanced and well researched account of the American Civil War. With 75% of it yet to read I would not wish to sit in judgement, but I am enjoying it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. E. E. Gill
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Fan
Purchased for an Uncle who loves the author; I can't comment on the content but my Uncle raves about the book!
Published 10 months ago by Miss S Dark
5.0 out of 5 stars An international perspective on an American tragedy
A World on Fire is a remarkable achievement. It is a history of the American Civil War taken from the very novel perspective of the relationship between Britain and the US during... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Aidan J. McQuade
5.0 out of 5 stars bought for research
i used this for research on a project i am working on, it really fit the bill nicely. great book, thank you
Published 12 months ago by Catherine
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history
Not finished yet! A lot of reading but what a lot of research has been done - wonderful insight into that particular war
Published 14 months ago by Pamela McCallum
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four-year struggle would lead to the freedom of four million slaves and cost the lives of more than 620,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians. &quote;
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For many Britons, the eradication of slavery around the globe was not simply an ideal but an inescapable moral duty, &quote;
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Tocqueville attributed the hostility to fifty years of self-congratulatory propaganda. He thought Americans were convinced that their country was a beacon of light to the world; ‘that they are the only religious, enlightened, and free people … hence they conceive a high opinion of their superiority and are not very remote from believing themselves to be a distinct species of mankind’. &quote;
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