Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

image for History Review (American Civil War): A World On Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided, By Amanda Foreman Strewth! A relevant picture!

A huge history of the American Civil War (are there any brief ones?) by the author of the celebrated Georgiana, Duchess Of Devonshire. Looking for a present for the history buff in your life?

Ken Lucid writes:

Sorry I've been away for a while - been in Australia at a conference on the Anzacs (couldn't make it the same time as an Ashes test, could they? Idiots!) and have been snowed under here. The history chair, old TL Cabotage, is calling it a day so I've been preparing to take over.

Yup - that's me. New history boss as UTVE. Big party, my place soon.

Got some pretty young thing from Leeds Met taking over my old post. She's extremely hot on social history, which will make a change around here. Get these kids looking at something other than Stalin and Hitler!

So... the American Civil War. Nasty business.

I read Ms Foreman's book on Georgiana. Thought it wasn't half bad. Didn't go much on the film though.

Don't know what it is about Keira Knightly, but she annoys me. The missus says I just don't like her because she has no bosom to speak of - but that's not true. It doesn't help, but it's not the whole story.

(If you're interested, there's a terrific Reynolds portrait of the Duchess playing with her daughter at Chatsworth. Looks nothing like Keira!)

Well, I read somewhere that Ms Foreman took 12 years to produce this effort. 12 years! Says she had a baby during her research. OK, fair enough.

But if I'd taken 12 years over my Napoleon III: Should He Have Stayed at Home? I reckon old Bunty at the publisher would have had my wossnames on a platter! Ha... Bunty Chester-Large, great old girl.

Serious students of the American Civil War will, of course, be familiar with the three-volume Narrative by Shelby Foote which stands astride the subject like a Colossus.

Foote was one of the "talking heads" in Ken Burns series on the subject - and he clearly knew his stuff.

So does Ms Foreman - her research is exhaustive. So there's your choice.

Ken Lucid is Chair of History at the University of Thames Valley East.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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