American Decline

BU Historian Answers: Are We Headed for Another Civil War?

This is from 2019, before the pandemic, George Floyd, J6, etc.

By Boston University Staff

Mueller report has Democrats and Republicans feuding—just how bad could it get?

A recent Washington Post headline says: “In America, talk turns to something not spoken of for 150 years: Civil war.” The story references, among others, Stanford University historian Victor Davis Hanson, who asked in a National Review essay last summer: “How, when, and why has the United States now arrived at the brink of a veritable civil war?” Another Washington Post story reports how Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King recently posted a meme warning that red states have “8 trillion bullets” in the event of a civil war. And a poll conducted last June by Rasmussen Reports found that 31 percent of probable US voters surveyed believe “it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years.”

Is that legitimately where we stand today in the era of Donald Trump, particularly in the wake of the ramped-up rhetoric stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow, or is Civil War talk just crazy hyperbole? BU Today put three questions to Nina Silber, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of history and American studies and the current president of the Society of Civil War Historians. Silber has done extensive research on the Civil War over more than two decades and has written several books on the subject, including Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (1992), Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War (2005), and most recently, This War Ain’t Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal America (University of North Carolina Press, 2018). Along with her teaching and research, she has worked on numerous public history projects, including museum exhibitions at the Gettysburg National Military Park and film projects on the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

So if anyone would have a knowledgeable perspective on the question of whether we are headed for civil war, it’s Silber. Read her answers about the proliferation of headlines referencing the possibility of another civil war.


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