More than 150 years ago, the American Civil War nearly tore this country apart. While that conflict certainly changed America, it’s often overlooked how it also affected other countries.
Don H. Doyle, a history professor at the University of South Carolina and an author, spoke Oct. 27 about that very specific view of the Civil War for the sixth Gregory Distinguished Lecture.
Doyle is a renowned historian whose academic interests include the Civil War and the American South. Fluent in several languages including Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, he has conducted research all over the world and has published a number of books on a variety of topics ranging from the Civil War to the city of Nashville.
“If Doyle is not an international man of mystery, he is at least one of the history profession’s great globe-trotters, always reminding us that American history never occurs in a vacuum,” said Stephen Berry, the Gregory Professor of the Civil War Era in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
The Gregory Lecture is an annual event supported by the Amanda and Greg Gregory Graduate Studies Enhancement Fund in the Franklin College.
This year’s Gregory Lecture focused on the international reaction and response to the Civil War, which Doyle covered in his most recent book, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War.
“What I tried to do in my book is step back from this war, and look at it from overseas-Europe, Latin America-and see it as part of a larger conflict or contest over the future of not just slavery but of democracy itself,” Doyle said.
Many foreign countries were interested in the war and its outcome, Doyle said. Many industrialized European countries relied on cotton produced in the Southern states, and the Confederacy’s King Cotton diplomacy caused unemployment in these countries. More importantly, many people were watching to see how the still-young American republic would survive this conflict.
“This was seen as a trial of democracy,” Doyle said. “The republican experiment would prove to be a failure or success.”