IB History Year 2: McPherson on the Confederacy’s Defeat

This week’s essays, “Why Did the Confederacy Lose?” and “How the Confederacy Almost Won,” treat with important questions which we will spend some time discussing this coming year. McPherson effectively summarizes in the first essay the most important theories that have been used to explain the outcome of the Civil War. As always, you are free to argue what you believe is the best explanation, with the caveat that you need to back it up with copious, accurate, and relevant historical evidence. He deals with the thesis that the North won solely through its overwhelming demographic and material advantages quite effectively, and you will likely pick up on echoes of this in my lectures. His take on the debatable impact of states rights and failure to centralize authority also provides food for thought. Note the contrast between external and internal explanations, as well as the role of leadership. In the next essay, McPherson disputes the notion that a Union victory was somehow inevitable. Pay special attention to McPherson’s analysis of Union and Confederate leadership.

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