History Podcasts

What is the story of war that started with “if”?

What is the story of war that started with “if”?

I was told about a story, of how one army sent terms to another army threatening 'if' they did not obey them, they would be punished. The receiving army replied to the threat with one word "if". I would really like to know if this story is a real historical event and if so what time period/era.


Recorded in Plutarch's De garrulitate, this is an example of a Laconic phrase:

After invading Greece and receiving the submission of other key city-states, Philip II of Macedon sent a message to Sparta: "If I invade Laconia you will be destroyed, never to rise again." The Spartan ephors replied with a single word: "If" (αἴκα). Subsequently neither Philip II nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to capture the city.


Why is there a war in Afghanistan? The short, medium and long story

Under the deal, the US and its Nato allies will withdraw all their troops from the country in 14 months if the hardline Islamist movement upholds its commitments to stop attacks.

But why is the US fighting a war in Afghanistan and why has it lasted so long?

On 11 September 2001, attacks in America killed nearly 3,000 people. Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.

The Taliban, radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan and protected Bin Laden, refused to hand him over. So, a month after 9/11, the US launched air strikes against Afghanistan.

As other countries joined the war, the Taliban were quickly removed from power. But they didn't just disappear - their influence grew back and they dug in.

Since then, the US and its allies have struggled to stop Afghanistan's government collapsing, and to end deadly attacks by the Taliban.

"We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfil it," US President George W Bush said when he announced the first air strikes against Afghanistan on 7 October, 2001. The raids were in response to the 9/11 attacks, which killed 2,977 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The mission, he said, was "to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime".

The first targets were military sites belonging to the hardline Taliban group who ruled the country. Training camps for al-Qaeda, the terror group run by 9/11 plotter Osama Bin Laden, were also hit.

But 18 years on, it's hard to argue the US mission has been fulfilled - the Taliban may play a part in ruling Afghanistan again if peace talks do eventually succeed.

The Taliban first took control of the capital Kabul in 1996, and ruled most of the country within two years. They followed a radical form of Islam and enforced punishments like public executions.

Within two months of the US and its international and Afghan allies launching their attacks, the Taliban regime collapsed and its fighters melted away into Pakistan.

A new US-backed government took over in 2004, but the Taliban still had a lot of support in areas around the Pakistani border, and made hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the drug trade, mining and taxes.

As the Taliban carried out more and more suicide attacks, international forces working with Afghan troops struggled to counter the threat the re-energised group posed.

In 2014, at the end of what was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001, Nato's international forces - wary of staying in Afghanistan indefinitely - ended their combat mission, leaving it to the Afghan army to fight the Taliban.

But that gave the Taliban momentum, as they seized territory and detonated bombs against government and civilian targets. In 2018, the BBC found the Taliban was openly active across 70% of Afghanistan.


What emerges is how eager people have been through history to find some truth in the story

The question is at the heart of Troy: Myth and Reality, a major exhibition at London’s British Museum. Greek vases, Roman frescoes, and more contemporary works of art depicting stories inspired by Troy are exhibited alongside archaeological artefacts dating from the Late Bronze Age. What emerges most palpably from the exhibition is how eager people have been through history to find some truth in the story of the Trojan War.

A Bronze-age pot from Troy is among the exhibits at the British Museum’s exhibition Troy (Credit: Claudia Plamp/ Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte)

The Romans went so far as to present themselves as the descendants of the surviving Trojans. In his poem, the Aeneid, Virgil described how the hero Aeneas escaped the burning citadel with a group of followers after the Greeks entered in their wooden horse. John Dryden, England’s first official poet laureate, translated superbly the part where the horse was made: “The Greeks grew weary of the tedious war,/ And, by Minerva’s aid, a fabric rear’d,/ Which like a steed of monstrous height appear’d”. Aeneas and his men left to found a new home in Italy.

Grim realities

It isn’t surprising that people have been convinced of the reality of the Trojan War. The grim realities of battle are described so unflinchingly in the Iliad that it is hard to believe they were not based on observation. A soldier dies by the water and “eels and fish make busy around him, feeding upon and devouring the fat around his kidneys”. Achilles spears Hector “at the gullet, where a man’s life is most quickly destroyed”, as Martin Hammond translated it. Troy, too, is portrayed in such vivid colour in the epic that a reader cannot help but to be transported to its magnificent walls.

A Roman silver cup from the 1st Century AD features Achilles (Credit: Roberta Fortuna and Kira Ursem/ National Museet Denmark)

It was in fact the prospect of rediscovering Homer’s Troy that led the rich Prussian businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, to travel to what is now Turkey in the late 19th Century. Told of a possible location for the city, at Hisarlik on the west coast of modern Turkey, Schliemann began to dig, and uncovered a large number of ancient treasures, many of which are now on display at the British Museum. Although he initially attributed many finds to the Late Bronze Age – the period in which Homer set the Trojan War – when they were in fact centuries older, he had excavated the correct location. Most historians now agree that ancient Troy was to be found at Hisarlik. Troy was real.

Evidence of fire, and the discovery of a small number of arrowheads in the archaeological layer of Hisarlik that corresponds in date to the period of Homer’s Trojan War, may even hint at warfare. There also survive inscriptions made by the Hittites, an ancient people based in central Turkey, describing a dispute over Troy, which they knew as ‘Wilusa’. None of this constitutes proof of a Trojan War. But for those who believe there was a conflict, these clues are welcome.

The Wounded Achilles, 1825, by Filippo Albacini (Credit: Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth/ Chatsworth Settlement Trustees)

A historic Trojan War would have been quite different from the one that dominates Homer’s epic. It is hard to imagine a war taking place on quite the scale the poet described, and lasting as long as 10 years when the citadel was fairly compact, as archaeologists have discovered. The behaviour of the soldiers in Homer’s war, though, seems all too human and real.


Voting by Mail Dates Back to America’s Earliest Years. Here’s How It’s Changed Over the Years

L iving through the COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to living through wartime. Now, the list of parallels is growing: according to a New York Times analysis, when Americans vote this November election offices could receive more than double the number of mailed ballots they received in 2016.

In the U.S., showing up in person to cast one’s ballot on Election Day has always been the standard way of exercising that fundamental right. But over the centuries, voting by mail has become an attractive alternative for many&mdashthanks in large part to the influence of wartime necessity.

Even the scattered examples of absentee voting (the terms are often used interchangeably) that can be traced to the colonial era tend to fit the pattern: In 17th-century Massachusetts, men could vote from home if their homes were “vulnerable to Indian attack,” according to historian Alex Keyssar’s book The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, and the votes of some Continental Army soldiers were presented in writing “as if the men were present themselves” in Hollis, N.H., in 1775 during the American Revolution.

But it was during the Civil War that America first experimented with absentee voting on a large scale, as so many of the men who were eligible to vote were away from home fighting. During the 1864 presidential election&mdashin which Republican incumbent President Abraham Lincoln defeated Democratic candidate George McClellan&mdashUnion soldiers voted in camps and field hospitals, under the supervision of clerks or state officials.

&ldquoExcuse-required absentee voting started during the Civil War&mdasha product of the competition between Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan,&rdquo Paul Gronke, a professor of political science at Reed College and founder of the non-partisan Early Voting Information Center, told TIME in 2016. &ldquoLincoln wanted to assure that he got the votes of the soldiers who were serving away from home.&rdquo

After the Civil War ended, the same logic held. In later conflicts, states increasingly made it possible for soldiers away from home to vote. During World War I, nearly all states let soldiers vote from afar “at least during war time,” according to Keyssar’s book. And it was in that same time period that people with a non-military, work-related reason for being away from home on Election Day started to be able to vote absentee, too. At the 1917-1918 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, one delegate advocated for accommodating those “in industry”, arguing that railroad employees and traveling salesmen who are away from home on Election Day are “toiling and sacrificing…for the common good,” just as soldiers do.

Industrialization and the expansion of transportation options allowed people to travel far and wide in the growing national economy, making that argument all the more powerful. Some laws required witnesses and a notary public’s signature, but officials were looking for a way to make sure that people on the road could still have their electoral voices heard.

“In the early 20th century, we’re becoming a much more mobile country,” says John C. Fortier, author of Absentee and Early Voting and director of governmental studies at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “States will make exceptions for certain types of people, such as railroad workers, or people who are sick. There is a movement&mdashnot nationally, we do everything differently state by state&mdashbut of states adopting some form of voting for selected populations who met certain criteria.”

In the decades that followed, people who voted by mail generally had to have a specific reason for not being able to vote in person on Election Day. That began to change in 1978, when California became the first state to allow voters to apply for an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse, according to Gronke.

Oregon also claims several firsts in the history of voting by mail. The first entirely mail-in federal primary election took place in the state in 1995, and the first mail-only general election took place in the state in 1996, when Ron Wyden was elected to the U.S. Senate to replace Bob Packwood, who resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. Since 2000, after 70% of voters approved a ballot initiative instituting the program, Oregon has been an all vote-by-mail state.

As TIME reported in its recent roundup of state laws for voting by mail in 2020, five states were already holding entirely mail-in elections before the pandemic&mdashColorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. allowed &ldquono excuse&rdquo mail-in absentee voting, and 16 states allowed voters to cast a ballot by mail if they had an excuse. In the 2016 presidential election, about 1 in 4 voters cast their votes via ballots mailed to them. Despite claims of vote fraud when voting is conducted outside of polling places, only 0.00006% of the 250 million votes by mailed ballots nationwide were fraudulent, according to MIT political scientists who analyzed numbers from the Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database.

In addition, scholars at Stanford University’s Democracy and Polarization Lab analyzing 1996-2018 data in three of these universal vote-by-mail states (California, Utah and Washington) didn’t find vote-by-mail advantaged one political party over another&mdashcontrary to President Trump’s claim that Republicans would never win an election again if vote-by-mail programs expanded&mdashand only found a “modest increase in overall average turnout rates.”

Vote-by-mail programs, as Fortier puts it, are “generally not pulling more people into the voting place, except for making it more convenient for those who vote anyway.”

During a period of time full of uncertainties, election officials say American voters can count on vote-by-mail programs being “safe and secure.” What’s also certain is that the 2020 Election is another milestone in the centuries-long history of voting by mail.


Thank you!

Is there any unifying principle or tactic that you noticed coming up repeatedly in these different movements in different places and times?

Generally there&rsquos an emphasis on physical and ideological confrontation against fascist movements, and again that goes back to the need to defend communities from attacks. You go right back to fascist Italy, which was the first fascist movement, and you see the first establishment of an anti-fascist resistance, and their main goals were physical and ideological confrontation. And if you look through history you see the same dynamics in all the different countries where you have fascist movements arise.

One of the tactics that jumped out at me from that history was the idea of &ldquono platform,” which is something you might see discussed these days, often as an affront to free speech. Can you explain what people should know about the history of the idea?

The place I&rsquom most familiar with where the idea of &ldquono platform&rdquo was really implemented was in the United Kingdom. It was really promoted by Anti-Fascist Action in England in the 1980s, and the general strategy is to deny fascists a public platform from which they can spread their propaganda and also organize and recruit. That&rsquos why these large public events that the far-right has been trying to organize in the last few years have been targeted by anti-fascists to shut them down &mdash that&rsquos part of the no-platform strategy.

The idea behind that is to try to stop them from spreading this poisonous political message that they have, and also trying to deny them the public space from which they can organize and carry out attacks in the streets after their meetings. That&rsquos basically what &ldquono platform&rdquo means.

Is there anything that you notice these days people tend to get wrong about the history or concept of anti-fascist resistance?

What I really notice, coming from the United States predominantly, is this kind of demonization of antifa and the false equivalency that it&rsquos just as bad as the fascists. Antifa wouldn&rsquot exist if there weren&rsquot these fascist and far-right groups mobilizing and carrying out attacks. If you look at the last couple of years, there&rsquos been over two dozen people killed by far-right and fascist groups and individuals, and antifa hasn&rsquot killed anybody.

Some people might argue that, even if one causes the other, direct confrontation of the type antifa movements rely on isn’t good, or that non-violent resistance is a better response to the violent rhetoric of fascism. What’s your take on that?

If you look at the number of people who have been killed by fascists and far-right extremists over the last couple years or even decades, it dwarfs Islamic [extremist] terrorist attacks in the United Sates. They&rsquove killed a lot of people and a lot of people have been assaulted. In terms of using violent and militant means to shut down fascist organizing, I think [white nationalist] Richard Spencer demonstrates very clearly the success of militant anti-fascism. He canceled his speaking tour he declared that antifa was winning it wasn&rsquot fun anymore for him to go out promoting hatred. That would be my main response. The book has a number of examples of militant anti-fascism working.

What about the moral side of it, the idea that violence just isn’t the right response?

Nazism was finally defeated through the terrible destruction of World War II, if that&rsquos what people want to go to because they think it&rsquos not right to confront fascists when they&rsquore in the streets. Confronting fascists in the streets when they&rsquore a much smaller movement is a lot better than waging a world war to shut down a fascist state.

Was there anything in your research that really surprised you?

I began the book with Italy and what really surprised me was the Arditi del Popolo [a militant anti-fascist group founded in Italy in 1921], and the level of armed resistance that was carried out in the early 1920s against the fascists and their paramilitary group, the Blackshirts &mdash including urban warfare and gun battles in small towns and cities.

To what extent is today&rsquos antifa connected to the early antifascists like the Arditi del Popolo?

I think in Italy there probably is a fairly direct lineage. In the United States and Canada, it&rsquos a different kind of situation and there&rsquos no direct lineage to these groups in the 1920s and &lsquo30s. Even antifa, which was revived by groups in the 1980s in West Germany, doesn&rsquot claim or have a direct lineage to the Communist Party antifa group that was set up in the 1930s. They modified the original antifa logo, but it&rsquos a very different movement today. People do draw inspiration and lessons from these previous movements, but I think the movements of today are new. There were periods of time when [antifa movements] didn&rsquot exist or weren&rsquot really mobilizing, because the far right was in decline. As they revived, then you see a revival of antifa groups.


How is the Confederate Flag used today?

Today, the Confederate flag’s history centers less around its early beginnings and more on its use as a rebel flag. It’s widely used to represent opposition to equity among all races and creeds. That’s why many people opposed the fact that the Confederate flag was flown above the statehouse in South Carolina for many years. Dylann Roof — the 21-year-old who shot and killed nine Black people in a Charleston church in June 2015 and had expressed his desire to start a “race war” — was photographed stomping and burning the American flag and waving the Confederate flag.

Roof’s brutal act renewed debate about the flag’s meaning and use in public spaces. In response to the shooting, activist Bree Newsome ripped down the flag at South Carolina’s statehouse before it was permanently taken down weeks after the shootings.

The following year, in May 2016, the U.S. House banned Confederate flags from being flown at cemeteries run by the Veterans Administration. In addition, major retailers, including Wal-Mart, eBay, and Sears stopped selling it, and various flag manufacturers have also ceased production of it.

Despite these changes, there are still Confederate flag defenders who insist that the answer to the question, “Is the Confederate flag racist?” is no. In December 2019, Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina Governor and United Nations ambassador (who actually ordered the flag removed from the Charleston statehouse), was criticized after saying Roof “hijacked” the Confederate flag, and that to the people of South Carolina, the flag represented “service and sacrifice and heritage.”


Contents

Bill W. had been a successful Wall Street businessman, but his career was in shambles because of his chronic alcoholism. [5] In 1934 he was invited by his friend and drinking buddy Ebby T. to join the Oxford Group, a spiritual movement based on the “Four Absolutes” of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. Bill W. met Dr. Bob in May 1935, and the men shared their stories with one another. The two began to work on how to best approach alcoholics and began trying to help men recover from alcoholism. The idea for the book developed at least as early as 1935, when Bill W. and Dr. Bob realized their system had helped over 40 men stay sober for more than 2 years. The book was meant to carry their message far and wide. Wilson started writing the book in 1938 [6] with the financial support of Charles B. Towns (1862–1947), an expert on alcoholism and drug addiction who was a supporter and creditor of Alcoholics Anonymous and lent Wilson $2500 ($41,870 in 2014 dollar values). [7] [8]

The Big Book was originally published in 1939 by AA founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob. The book serves as the basic text of AA. There have been numerous reprints and revisions, in addition to translations into dozens of languages. [9] The second edition (1955) consisted of 1,150,000 copies. The book is published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services and is available through AA offices and meetings, as well as through booksellers. The 4th edition (2001) is also freely available online. [10] Marty Mann (1904–1980) wrote the chapter "Women Suffer Too" in the second through fourth editions of the Big Book.

U.S. President Richard Nixon received the millionth copy of the book, [11] The 25-millionth copy of the Big Book was presented to Jill Brown, the warden of San Quentin State Prison, at the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to commemorate the first prison meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous taking place at San Quentin in 1941. [12] The 30-millionth copy of the book was presented to the American Medical Association in 2010, which declared alcoholism an illness in 1956. [13]

The book [14] consists of over 400 pages. Bill's Story and Dr. Bob's Nightmare and the personal experiences of some alcoholics are detailed as well as the series of solutions which evolved to become the twelve-step program. How to use the twelve steps is explained using examples and anecdotes. Some chapters target a specific audience. One chapter is devoted to agnostics, while another is named "To Wives" (most of the first AA members were men), and still another is for employers. The second part of the book (whose content varies from edition to edition) is a collection of personal stories, in which alcoholics tell their stories of addiction and recovery.

Frequently mentioned sections are:

  • the "Twelve Steps", at the beginning of Chapter 5, "How It Works"
  • the "Twelve Traditions", in the Appendix
  • the "Ninth Step Promises", in Chapter 6, "Into Action" preceding the discussion of the 10th Step.

The main goal of the book is to make it possible for the reader to find a power greater than himself to solve his problem. The writers indicate that an alcoholic "of our type" can under no circumstances become a moderate drinker: only abstinence and the understanding of the community of alcoholics can lead to recovery. By way of anecdotal evidence, the example is provided of a man who, after 25 years sobriety, began to drink moderately and within two months landed in hospital. The reasoning is that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.

The book contends that it is impossible for an alcoholic to quit drinking by oneself. A new attitude or set of values also would not help. Whosoever is an alcoholic must admit that they cannot help themselves alone. Only a "higher power" and the community can help. An example of a man named Fred is given, who had no control over his drinking, but finally leads an "infinitely more satisfying life" than before thanks to the previously unexplained principles of AA. In the introduction to the Big Book, William Duncan Silkworth, M.D., a specialist in the treatment of alcoholism, endorses the AA program after treating Bill W, the founder of AA, and other apparently hopeless alcoholics who then regained their health by joining the AA fellowship. "For most cases," Silkworth claimed, "there is no other solution" than a spiritual solution. Today "many doctors and psychiatrists" confirm the effects of AA. [15]

First edition Edit

At the time of the publication of the first edition, The Big Book was typically well received by most critics, referred to by one reviewer as "the greatest redemptive force of the twentieth century." [16] A reviewer for the New York Times stated that the thesis of the book had more of a sound base psychologically than any other book on the subject and that the book is unlike any other book ever published. [17] Other critics called the book extraordinary and stated that it deserved the attention of anyone worried about the problem of alcoholism. [18] It was noted by the American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers that contact with the members of an A.A. group increases one's respect for their work. "To the layman, the book is very clear. To the professional person it is at first a bit misleading in that the spiritual aspect gives the impression that this is another revival movement" and that "it is more impressive to the professional person to watch the technique in action than to read the book." [19] However, not all reviewers, especially those in the medical field, found merit in the book. The review that appeared in the October 1939 volume of the Journal of the American Medical Association called the book "a curious combination of organizing propaganda and religious exhortation…in no sense a scientific book." [20] Similarly, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease said The Big Book was "big in words…a rambling sort of camp meeting…Of the inner meaning of alcoholism there is hardly a word. It is all on the surface material." [21] This review went on to "degrade" the alcoholic: "Inasmuch as the alcoholic, speaking generally, lives a wish-fulfilling infantile regression to the omnipotent delusional state, perhaps he is best handled for the time being at least by regressive mass psychological methods, in which, as is realized, religious fervors belong, hence the religious trend of the book." The views about the book and about alcoholism espoused in these two journals was typical of how alcoholics and other addicts were viewed by many in the psychiatric field during the middle of the twentieth century. [22]

Later editions Edit

When the second version of The Big Book was released in 1955, reviewers once again gave their opinions, with reception still mostly positive. One reviewer stated that the pages of the book were American legend and would "remain there, through the full history of man's pursuit of maturity." [23] This was the case with the release of the third edition in 1976 as well. The journal Employee Assistance Quarterly in 1985 asked three professionals in the field of addictive behaviors to review the book, with each reviewer asked to answer the following questions: [24]


What happened on the battlefield?

The Taliban rebuilt their fighting capabilities, despite a steady influx of American and NATO troops, who secured territory previously controlled by the Taliban and sought to win over Afghans with promises of new schools, government centers, roads and bridges.

With the Taliban posing an enhanced military threat, President Barack Obama deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan as part of a “surge,” reaching nearly 100,000 by mid-2010. But the Taliban only grew stronger, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan security forces despite American combat power and airstrikes.

In May 2011, a U.S. Navy SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he had been living for years near a Pakistan military training academy. In June, Mr. Obama announced that he would start bringing American forces home and hand over responsibility for security to the Afghans by 2014.

By then, the Pentagon had concluded that the war could not be won militarily and that only a negotiated settlement could end the conflict — the third in three centuries involving a world power. Afghan fighters defeated the British army in the 19th century and the Russian military in the 20th century.

With the war at a stalemate, Mr. Obama ended major combat operations on Dec. 31, 2014, and transitioned to training and assisting Afghan security forces.

Nearly three years later, President Donald J. Trump said that although his first instinct had been to withdraw all troops, he would nonetheless continue to prosecute the war. He stressed that any troop withdrawal would be based on combat conditions, not predetermined timelines.

But the Trump administration also had been talking to the Taliban since 2018, leading to formal negotiations that excluded the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani.


Infrastructure and the Brent Spence Bridge

The Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky has long been overstressed by the traffic it handles day after day, and it has been in need of a significant upgrade or replacement for years.

But McConnell made it clear Monday he isn’t willing to back Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal, period, even if it were to include serious funding for the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Kentucky with Cincinnati.

Instead, he advocated for a much smaller, roughly $600 billion infrastructure plan Senate Republicans have floated.

He indicated that while federal funding potentially could be provided for the Brent Spence Bridge in an infrastructure package if congressional Democrats and Republicans are able to reach a deal, some degree of state and perhaps local funding is likely to still be needed to finance such an undertaking in Northern Kentucky.

A red line Senate Republicans aren’t willing to cross, McConnell said, is any attempt to pay for new infrastructure investments at the national level by chipping away at the 2017 tax cuts Republicans passed during former President Donald Trump’s term in office.

“We’re happy to take a look at an infrastructure package that’s what basically both sides agree is infrastructure, and we’re not willing to pay for it by undoing the 2017 tax bill,” McConnell said Monday.

He and other conservatives repeatedly have criticized Biden’s proposal, saying it includes funding for a ton of things that aren’t actually infrastructure projects.

When The Courier Journal asked if he’s willing to consider and negotiate on an infrastructure package that goes above Republicans’ proposed $600 billion price tag, he said: “No, no. If it’s going to be about infrastructure, let’s make it about infrastructure. And I think there’s some sentiment on the Democratic side for splitting it off.”


Feature Causes Of The Civil War

The causes of the Civil War and its cost to a young nation.

More from Wes about the causes of the Civil War.

What led to the outbreak of the bloodiest conflict in the history of North America?

A common explanation is that the Civil War was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict.

A key issue was states' rights.

The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn't support, especially laws interfering with the South's right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished.

Another factor was territorial expansion.

The South wished to take slavery into the western territories, while the North was committed to keeping them open to white labor alone.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Republican party, whose members were strongly opposed to the westward expansion of slavery into new states, was gaining prominence.

The election of a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, as President in 1860 sealed the deal. His victory, without a single Southern electoral vote, was a clear signal to the Southern states that they had lost all influence.

Feeling excluded from the political system, they turned to the only alternative they believed was left to them: secession, a political decision that led directly to war.

Video:
Causes of the Civil War

The causes of the Civil War and its cost to a young nation.

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