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Few people would have expected bloodshed in Kansas Territory. After all, it had few slaves and showed few signs that slavery would even flourish. But civil war tore this territory apart in the 1850s and 60s, and Bleeding Kansas became a forbidding symbol for the nationwide clash over slavery that followed. Many free-state Kansans seemed to care little about slaves, and many Few people would have expected bloodshed in Kansas Territory. After all, it had few slaves and showed few signs that slavery would even flourish. But civil war tore this territory apart in the 1850s and 60s, and Bleeding Kansas became a forbidding symbol for the nationwide clash over slavery that followed. Many free-state Kansans seemed to care little about slaves, and many proslavery Kansans owned not a single slave. But the failed promise of the Kansas-Nebraska Act-when fraud in local elections subverted the settlers' right to choose whether Kansas would be a slave or free state-fanned the flames of war. While other writers have cited slavery or economics as the cause of unrest, Nicole Etcheson seeks to revise our understanding of this era by focusing on whites' concerns over their political liberties. The first comprehensive account of Bleeding Kansas in more than thirty years, her study re-examines the debate over slavery expansion to emphasize issues of popular sovereignty rather than slavery's moral or economic dimensions. The free-state movement was a coalition of settlers who favored black rights and others who wanted the territory only for whites, but all were united by the conviction that their political rights were violated by nonresident voting and by Democratic presidents' heavy-handed administration of the territories. Etcheson argues that participants on both sides of the Kansas conflict believed they fought to preserve the liberties secured by the American Revolution and that violence erupted because each side feared the loss of meaningful self-governance. Bleeding Kansas is a gripping account of events and people-rabble-rousing Jim Lane, zealot John Brown, Sheriff Sam Jones, and others-that examines the social milieu of the settlers along with the political ideas they developed. Covering the period from the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act to the 1879 Exoduster Migration, it traces the complex interactions among groups inside and outside the territory, creating a comprehensive political, social, and intellectual history of this tumultuous period in the state's history. As Etcheson demonstrates, the struggle over the political liberties of whites may have heightened the turmoil but led eventually to a broadening of the definition of freedom to include blacks. Her insightful re-examination sheds new light on this era and is essential reading for anyone interested in the ideological origins of the Civil War.


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Few people would have expected bloodshed in Kansas Territory. After all, it had few slaves and showed few signs that slavery would even flourish. But civil war tore this territory apart in the 1850s and 60s, and Bleeding Kansas became a forbidding symbol for the nationwide clash over slavery that followed. Many free-state Kansans seemed to care little about slaves, and many Few people would have expected bloodshed in Kansas Territory. After all, it had few slaves and showed few signs that slavery would even flourish. But civil war tore this territory apart in the 1850s and 60s, and Bleeding Kansas became a forbidding symbol for the nationwide clash over slavery that followed. Many free-state Kansans seemed to care little about slaves, and many proslavery Kansans owned not a single slave. But the failed promise of the Kansas-Nebraska Act-when fraud in local elections subverted the settlers' right to choose whether Kansas would be a slave or free state-fanned the flames of war. While other writers have cited slavery or economics as the cause of unrest, Nicole Etcheson seeks to revise our understanding of this era by focusing on whites' concerns over their political liberties. The first comprehensive account of Bleeding Kansas in more than thirty years, her study re-examines the debate over slavery expansion to emphasize issues of popular sovereignty rather than slavery's moral or economic dimensions. The free-state movement was a coalition of settlers who favored black rights and others who wanted the territory only for whites, but all were united by the conviction that their political rights were violated by nonresident voting and by Democratic presidents' heavy-handed administration of the territories. Etcheson argues that participants on both sides of the Kansas conflict believed they fought to preserve the liberties secured by the American Revolution and that violence erupted because each side feared the loss of meaningful self-governance. Bleeding Kansas is a gripping account of events and people-rabble-rousing Jim Lane, zealot John Brown, Sheriff Sam Jones, and others-that examines the social milieu of the settlers along with the political ideas they developed. Covering the period from the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act to the 1879 Exoduster Migration, it traces the complex interactions among groups inside and outside the territory, creating a comprehensive political, social, and intellectual history of this tumultuous period in the state's history. As Etcheson demonstrates, the struggle over the political liberties of whites may have heightened the turmoil but led eventually to a broadening of the definition of freedom to include blacks. Her insightful re-examination sheds new light on this era and is essential reading for anyone interested in the ideological origins of the Civil War.

30 review for Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era

  1. 4 out of 5

    Monte Lamb

    This is a scholarly book on Kansas from 1854-1860 plus one chapter on the effect of the Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas border. It is very well documented with almost 100 pages of footnotes and bibliography. You get a good sense of the politics in Washington, Kansas territory, and Missouri. It lays out a good timeline on how immigration developed and how the various pro-slavery and free state groups grew and fought, both politically and reality. This period in our history was the most divisive This is a scholarly book on Kansas from 1854-1860 plus one chapter on the effect of the Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas border. It is very well documented with almost 100 pages of footnotes and bibliography. You get a good sense of the politics in Washington, Kansas territory, and Missouri. It lays out a good timeline on how immigration developed and how the various pro-slavery and free state groups grew and fought, both politically and reality. This period in our history was the most divisive and Bleeding Kansas was a jump start to our Civil War. It is a fascinating time and this book does a good job of painting the picture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Martin Lowery

    Nicole Etcheson tells an interesting story about an important part of pre-Civil War history. Her writing style and inability to narrate a cohesive story suffers throughout as she jumps from one character to the next, from one event to another event, without applying much needed context. To really enjoy this book, you might need to have vast knowledge on the time period, but even if, the book is as dry as a wikipedia entry.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andy May

    This is an excellent history of the bleeding Kansas period by a well-known historian. It is very well researched and the bibliography is invaluable. My only complaint is that, while she explains the events well, she doesn't describe the people very well. This makes the book rather dry. This is an excellent history of the bleeding Kansas period by a well-known historian. It is very well researched and the bibliography is invaluable. My only complaint is that, while she explains the events well, she doesn't describe the people very well. This makes the book rather dry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike Keil

    Excellent work on how Popular Sovereignty and liberty meant different thing to different people and groups and how that played out in early Kansas history. Required reading for anyone who wants to have a more thorough understanding of Kansas history and the prelude to the Civil War.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate Lawrence

    For American history buffs, this tells the story before the story of the Civil War. Kansas is where it really began, if you consider the starting point of the Civil War to be the first time pro-slavery and anti-slavery armies, however small, faced off against each other. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law in 1854, it seemed like a good idea to a lot of politicians to let settlers decide whether to allow slavery in the new territory. In practice, however, it was an invitation to corruption a For American history buffs, this tells the story before the story of the Civil War. Kansas is where it really began, if you consider the starting point of the Civil War to be the first time pro-slavery and anti-slavery armies, however small, faced off against each other. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law in 1854, it seemed like a good idea to a lot of politicians to let settlers decide whether to allow slavery in the new territory. In practice, however, it was an invitation to corruption and violence. Etcheson's recounting of how it all played out is well-researched, concise, and readable throughout.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Riley

    A brilliant book that clearly demonstrates how the causes of the American Civil War went beyond slavery and black civil rights and equally stemmed from debates over the rights and freedoms of whites. Kansas, the then-frontier of the United States, presents an enthralling backdrop for the turmoil and chaos which preceded the civil war proper and Etchison recounts the political and violent struggles wages over this part of America in this very readable and very enjoyable account.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Etcheson's major contribution in Bleeding Kansas is a keen demonstration of the absolute bankruptcy of popular sovereignty in determining the status of slavery in Kansas. A book more of detail and narrative than theory or broad argument it demonstrates the movement of free soil advocates from pacifist and free soil to more violent and also abolitionist tendencies. John Brown is central to the tale and Harper's Ferry and the Civil War are also included to conclude the story. Etcheson's major contribution in Bleeding Kansas is a keen demonstration of the absolute bankruptcy of popular sovereignty in determining the status of slavery in Kansas. A book more of detail and narrative than theory or broad argument it demonstrates the movement of free soil advocates from pacifist and free soil to more violent and also abolitionist tendencies. John Brown is central to the tale and Harper's Ferry and the Civil War are also included to conclude the story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robert Collins

    Good "new" history of the Territorial period (it's been some time since it came out). Follows in the current view that the Free-State movement was not abolitionist, but comprised of abolitionists and the less radical Westerners. My one concern is the conclusion that Kansas was radicalized by the Territorial struggle. Perhaps so during the Civil War, but not after. Good "new" history of the Territorial period (it's been some time since it came out). Follows in the current view that the Free-State movement was not abolitionist, but comprised of abolitionists and the less radical Westerners. My one concern is the conclusion that Kansas was radicalized by the Territorial struggle. Perhaps so during the Civil War, but not after.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Hassig

    This is a really interesting book once you get past the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. It takes forever but once you are through and into what actually happens because of it it gets better! This is definitely not middle school level but I'll definitely use some of the information in my teaching. I also got to meet the author and she was awesome! And not from Kansas - Indiana! This is a really interesting book once you get past the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. It takes forever but once you are through and into what actually happens because of it it gets better! This is definitely not middle school level but I'll definitely use some of the information in my teaching. I also got to meet the author and she was awesome! And not from Kansas - Indiana!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    The book began a bit slow, but the background was needed. Overall the book was very informative and compelling. The Civil War began in Kansas. I have a better understanding of why the Republican Party is the majority party in Kansas. I recommend it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bo

    Etcheson has researched well. This stands as a dull read, however.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liz Derrington

    Painstakingly researched, incredibly detailed, and remarkably even-handed. A bit on the dry side, but that's hardly surprising. Painstakingly researched, incredibly detailed, and remarkably even-handed. A bit on the dry side, but that's hardly surprising.

  13. 4 out of 5

    PottWab Regional Library

    SM

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  15. 4 out of 5

    Edgar Raines

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

  17. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Davis

  19. 4 out of 5

    MaryAnn

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Burden

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Blake Dalton

  23. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zack

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joseph burrell

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brigette Cascio

  27. 5 out of 5

    Judy Billings

  28. 5 out of 5

    Russell craig Baucke

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eryn Fruge

  30. 4 out of 5

    Justin Hineline

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