Good book recommendations. Thank you.Two books I would recommend, but not for buying: At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis by the late Shearer Davis Bowman and Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States by Michael E. Woods. These books let us peer into the cultural and social factors that led to the war, and they were essential to me in understanding how sectional animosity was able to erupt in warfare.
These books are written, it seems to me, for graduate level historians and social scientists; they're not for everybody. I'd see if I could get them from a library before buying them.
Why were these books useful to me? I used to be one of those folks who ascribed all of human behavior to economic determinism... the idea that economics and economic relationships are the foundation upon which all other social and political arrangements in society are based. But if that was true, then, for example, religion would not matter... but it does. I still do regard economics as a key force in explaining our actions, but I understand that other forces must be reckoned with.
These books go beyond economic determinism. They helped me to understand the social and even emotional conditions and states of people of the era, which provided an understanding of why people behaved the way they did.
Many people will say that the secessionists left the Union because of slavery. This is a very simplistic, imprecise statement, although, if you wanted to use just one word, that is it. But one word does not suffice.
More precisely, people seceded because they perceived that the Republican Party was pro-abolition, or beholden to abolitionists; and that the Party would enact policies that would ruin slavery, and thus southern society. It was more about a distrust and even hatred for the so-called "Black Republicans" that led to secession.
Recollect that the SC Sec Dec states
On the 4th day of March next, this (Republican) party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
If SC believed that the Republicans were indeed hellbent on waging a war against slavery, their decision to secede makes sense. Why did they feel that way? The books I mention give some insight into why specific southerners felt and believed that Northerners in general and Republicans in general were a threat to their way of life.