The American Civil War in the Shaping of British Democracy: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The American Civil War in the Shaping of British Democracy

1st Edition

By Brent E. Kinser


206 pages

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When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, a central question for British intellectuals was whether or not the American conflict was proof of the viability of democracy as a foundation for modern governance. The lessons of the American Civil War for Britain would remain a focal point in the debate on democracy throughout the war up to the suffrage reform of 1867, and after. Brent E. Kinser considers four figures connected by Woodrow Wilson's concept of the "Literary Politician," a person who, while possessing a profound knowledge of politics combined with an equally acute literary ability to express that knowledge, escapes the practical drudgeries of policy making. Kinser argues that the animosity of Thomas Carlyle towards democracy, the rhetorical strategy of Anthony Trollope's North America, the centrality of the American war in Walter Bagehot's vision of British governance, and the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill illustrate the American conflict's vital presence in the debates leading up to the 1867 reform, a legislative event that helped to secure democracy's place in the British political system.


Classified as 'Research Essential' by Baker & Taylor YBP Library Services A Yankee Book Peddler UK Core Title for 2011 '… this is an excellent study, presenting an innovative take on the Anglo-American relationship through the lens of the nineteenth century’s literary politicians. It presents the reader with a compelling argument, which not only has something to say about the position America occupied for the British intellectual community but also how this informed the British reform movement itself, on the path to democracy.' Journal of Transatlantic Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: trial of the century; Thomas Carlyle: the accidental democrat; Anthony Trollope: strange paradoxes; Walter Bagehot: the case against America; John Stuart Mill: calculations and feelings; Conclusion: 'Fare-well' democracy; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Brent E. Kinser is Associate Professor of English at Western Carolina University.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)