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on 28 August 2016
This is the book you should read if you're looking for a single volume on the American.civil war. It documents the events which led up to the war all the way through to General Lee's surrender.
The book was excellent for me because, although 956 pages, I learnt all I want to know on a subject where entire books are dedicated to single battles.
The author is light handed, and doesn't let his own opinions distort his version of events; which is always a positive in a historical tome. He also does a thorough job on describing all the main protagonists in depth; and the roguish elements of the war too. Highly recommended for those like me, who only want to read a single volume on the subject.
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on 25 April 2017
Extensive coverage of society, politics, and battles in one (thick) book. This is the alternative to multi-book series. It is engagingly written and covers all a non-scholarly reader will want to know (although there are copious footnotes).

However, the quality of the production is lacking: the maps are almost all totally unreadable (too small, and darkly reproduced), with many places showing a poor imprint of the text itself. This is surprising for Penguin (this review is of the paperback version; perhaps the hardcover is better).
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on 28 April 2017
Excellent book for holiday reading
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on 7 May 2014
A very readable book. The English flows beautifully, so do not be daunted by its length. The civil war was a tragedy brought about by the tensions that had remained buried since the British left, and exacerbated by the amazing success story that the USA had become by the mid 19th century. The book plays out the tragedy masterfully.
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on 5 June 2017
😊
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on 19 July 2017
Accessible, engrossing and extremely comprehensive, highly recommended even to those who have not read any other scholarly works on the subject
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on 19 May 2017
A very thoughtful book, full of interesting information and perfect to satisfy my curiosity in all things USA.
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on 12 May 2017
The definitive history of this period of history.
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on 26 March 2017
This is probably the best one volume book on the Civil War out there. There is never a dull moment. McPherson's writing style is quick, clear, and easy to read. He truly brings to life that feeling of utter division that was the Civil War and one wonders how the country ever healed and how it has become so united. The idea that Americans would place allegiance to their states over the national governement seems so utterly foreign now, it amazes me to think how so much has changed since those days.

There does seem to be some confusion about the purpose of the book. It was actually written as part of a greater series "The Oxford History of the United States." It covers the Civil War era, not just the war itself, and covers about twenty years from 1847-1865. It is impossible to undestand what the Civil War was without understanding the background, so I fail to understand the complaints of some reviewers that the war only shows up after about 300 or so pages. It is a thoroughly detailed review of the major causes of the Civil War and if you don't understand it after reading this book, you never will. It is clear and concise.

I really believe that any student of American histroy must read this book. It's beautifully written and worth the time it takes you to plow through it. There are extensive notes so readers can investigate fully various subjects of the book. Highly recommended.
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on 10 July 2016
I have only read the first three chapters so far. The first chapter on the state of the US in the 1850s is really good. It is easy to follow and looks at so many aspects of US life of which I was unaware (as a Brit). The political, economic and social situation, the differences between different parts of the country and the way these differences were growing, the importance of newspapers and education. Etc etc. A good foundation for understanding what follows, I hope!

So far, the issues in chapters 2 and 3 are dealt with in detail, but still without losing the thread of the narrative.
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