Tuesday, January 21, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: An Environmental History of the Civil War by Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

An Environmental History of the Civil War by Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver, to be released in mid-April, is the latest contribution to American Civil War history that not only takes into account environmental factors but makes the case that these factors were central to deciding the outcome.

The various chapters discuss illness (particularly infectious diseases), weather, the availability and scarcity of adequate food, terrain, use of animals and the problems associated with their use, and soldiers’ death and disability. These are placed in context more or less chronologically, although their impacts were felt throughout the course of the war.

While many of the big-picture conclusions are not revelations, the book delves into the details supporting the conclusions in a scholarly yet accessible fashion that aids in understanding. The two authors’ combined expertise makes for a wonderful synthesis of a good deal of material. For those interested in Civil War history who are not fluent in environmental history but who would like to see events examined from this angle, this book is a fine choice.