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Extended Audio Sample A World on Fire: Britains Crucial Role in the American Civil War, by Amanda Foreman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (489 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Amanda Foreman Narrator: Robertson Dean Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman follows the phenomenal success of her New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire with her long-awaited second work of nonfiction: the fascinating story of the American Civil War and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.

Even before the first rumblings of secession shook the halls of Congress, British involvement in the coming schism was inevitable. Britain was dependent on the South for cotton, and in turn the Confederacy relied almost exclusively on Britain for guns, bullets, and ships. The Union sought to block any diplomacy between the two and consistently teetered on the brink of war with Britain. For four years the complex web of relationships between the countries led to defeats and victories both minute and history-making. In A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman examines the fraught relations from multiple angles while she introduces characters both humble and grand, bringing them to vivid life over the course of her sweeping and brilliant narrative.

Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman has woven together their experiences to form a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. Through the eyes of these brave volunteers we see the details of the struggle for life and the great and powerful forces that threatened to demolish a nation.

In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America. A World on Fire is a complex and groundbreaking work that will surely cement Amanda Foreman’s position as one of the most influential historians of our time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The EconomistThe New York TimesThe New Yorker, The St Louis Post-Dispatch, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal all list A World on Fire as one of the best books of 2011!
  • Ms. Foreman...is such an engaging writer that readers may find this 958-page volume too short. Michael Burlingame, The Wall Street Journal
  • Extraordinary cast....Thoroughly researched and well written...Remarkable. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The New York Times Book Review
  • One puts down A World on Fire with a sense of awe. Foreman's skills as historian and writer are formidable. The Boston Globe
  • Foreman's descriptive gifts show especially well in bringing vividly to life the political and diplomatic worlds of Washington and London...A brief review can only hint at the expansive scope, rich detail and pulsing energy of A World on Fire. The Washington Post
  • [A] magisterial history. Newsweek
  • So expansive in its scope, and so well written...to call it a masterpiece somehow doesn't seem to do it justice. Christian Science Monitor
  • “Extraordinary…Thoroughly researched and well written…Remarkable.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year!
  • “Ms. Foreman…is such an engaging writer that readers may find this 958-page volume too short.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “So expansive in its scope, and so well written, that to call it a masterpiece somehow doesn’t seem to do it justice…Foreman displays her exceptional gift for storytelling and for making history both fascinating and relevant.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Foreman’s descriptive gifts show especially well in bringing vividly to life the political and diplomatic worlds of Washington and London…A brief review can only hint at the expansive scope, rich detail, and pulsing energy of A World on Fire.”

    Washington Post

  • “One puts down A World on Fire with a sense of awe. Foreman’s skills as historian and writer are formidable.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Thrilling narrative on a grand scale.”

    History Today

  • “A magisterial history.”

    Newsweek

  • “Foreman amply offers a new perspective on the war in an elegantly written work of old-fashioned narrative history.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • A World on Fire is an achievement as enjoyable as it is impressive. As in a great nineteenth-century novel, a teeming cast propels this epic—the gallant and the craven, scoundrels and lovers, diplomats and freebooters—some helplessly caught in the gale, others with their hands firmly on the levers of power. Charles Dickens appears in this book; had he been an historian he might well have written it.”

    Richard Snow, editor of American Heritage, 1990-2007

  • A 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist for General Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A 2011 Washington Post Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Chicago Tribune Book of the Year for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Economist Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 NPR Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Library Journal Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Converse | 2/15/2014

    " The author covers many topics related to the American Civil War and Britain. Besides covering the diplomatic aspects, she discusses British journalists covering the war, the attempts of the Confedracy to purchase arms in Europe, British subjects fighting on both the Confedrate and Union sides, and on, and on....Got to page 225, which is about a quarter of the text. The writing is fine, but there is so much of it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Laura Jordan | 2/10/2014

    " Dense, exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting!) -- a really fascinating look into the diplomatic history of the Civil War. I would have given this five stars, but I do think that it would have been better off if Foreman had offered more of an overarching thesis in the book, rather than just giving a chronological account of events. Still, a must-read for anyone interested in Civil War history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Angela Fishel | 2/3/2014

    " Although this book is very interesting, well researched and beautifully written, I just could not devote more time to finish it. For civil war buffs or those who want to learn more about the era, especially those also interested in English history, this is a treasure. The individual experiences enhance the political and military narratives. A bit lengthy for those of us with short attention spans and long to-read lists. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Dee Kridel | 1/20/2014

    " This was an incredible work of scholarship and insight. The history of the American Civil War comes to life as seen through the experiences of a collection of individuals from the North, South and Britain. The author follows their experiences from the run-up to the war, through the war's prosecution, and wraps up with an epilogue that lets the reader know what happened to them all after the war. While exhaustively researched and documented, it is anything but dry. The focus on the experiences of these individuals makes it almost a gossipy retelling of these grave events which have had such an impact and colored the relationship between Britain and the US for the next 50 years. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in History and I think even the casual reader would enjoy its character sketches. "

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