Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Geopolitics of the American Civil War

The Geopolitics of the American Civil War

  • March 18, 2016


2016 One Book One Philadelphia

Part of the “One Book, One Philadelphia Series” on Cold Mountain Sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia
Gold Mountain



As the United States descended into the Civil War, it was already an important part of the world economy, and thus the crisis of the Union attracted a great deal of international attention. The two largest global powers of the era, France and the United Kingdom, each debated whether or how to intervene in the conflict in service of their own interests, while other states, firms, and individuals watched closely to see how the United States would resolve the debate over slavery—with all its political and economic implications for the international system—that had sparked the conflict. Meanwhile, Union efforts to blockade the Confederacy provoked international legal as well as military disputes, raising questions about global trade that helped shape modern maritime law. Join us as we discuss the world’s reactions to the Civil War, the foreign policies pursued by the Union and Confederacy, and their implications for both U.S. and world history.


Walter McDougallWalter A. McDougall is the Co-Chair of FPRI’s Madeleine and W.W. Keen Butcher History Institute, Chairman of FPRI Board of Advisors, Chair of FPRI’s Center for the Study of America and the West, and sits on the Board of Editors for FPRI’s journal, Orbis. He is the Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.  His honors include a Pulitzer Prize, election to the Society of American Historians, and appointment to the Library of Congress Council of Scholars. His articles and columns have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Commentary, and other national publications.  An unabashed generalist, his books range from France’s Rhineland Diplomacy 1914-1924: The Last Bid for a Balance of Power in Europe (1978), and …the Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (1985), to Let the Sea Make a Noise: A History of the North Pacific From Magellan to MacArthur (1992), Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776 (1997), and Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History 1585-1828 (2004).  His latest book, Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877 (2008), was chosen by the Athenæum of Philadelphia as best book of the year by a local author.


Gregory UrwinDr. Gregory J.W. Urwin is a military historian whose work spans the American War of Independence through World War 2.  He has published ten books, including Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), which received the General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. Urwin has lectured at the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Philadelphia’s Union League, American Philosophical Society, William L. Clements Library, David Library of the American Revolution, Fort Ticonderoga, and U.S. Army War College. Urwin is the immediate past President of the Society for Military History, and is a fellow in both the Company of Military Historians and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is also the general editor of the Campaigns and Commanders Series from University of Oklahoma Press.

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The Geopolitics of the American Civil War