A world on fire
A world on fire is about the American Civil War, but more specifically about the relationship between Britain and the warring factions. Many people are unaware of how close to getting embroiled in the war on the Southern side Britain was, and this book provides a timely re-assessment of how things can deteriorate due to the power of the press and public opinion. It was strange in a way as the British people were totally against slavery but they still supported the Confederacy in most of the country. Surprisingly, the exception was in the North-West where the textile industry was dependent upon cotton imports from the American south where you would imagine sympathy would have been strongest but it wasn’t.
The story is told through the actions of the people involved on both sides, from the adventurers who went to fight to the diplomats who on the whole attempted to keep Britain out of the war. That perhaps is one of the weaknesses too – with over 200 characters it was sometimes difficult to remember who was who. The book is just under 1000 pages although that does include copious notes so it was not a light read Having said that, the research is detailed and the narrative is excellent so the book reads easily and was so well-written it at times felt like reading a novel.
The stories of how British citizens were tricked or forced into enlisting were new to me and also full of interest. And as a final parallel with today, the story of how the press can attempt to manipulate public opinion through bias was also fascinating.
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