Reconstructing the Causes of the American Civil War from Historiographical Perspectives

Jamila Zghal


This paper seeks to reconstruct the causes of the American Civil War (1861-1865) from three perspectives pertaining to historiographical controversies. It attempts to ascertain some plausible understanding of this war by contrasting these accounts reflecting rival positions towards it (namely, an official American Administration version, an economic account, and a Southern perspective). The rationale behind such an enterprise is to relativize them and lay bare their authors’ biases reconstructed from their vantage points. This enterprise has been investigated through postmodern key concepts denoting an inter-disciplinarity between historiography and linguistics. To this effect, a historiographical synthesis is made of the theoretical frameworks of White (1978, 1987) and MucCullagh (1998) leading to an analytic checklist. Textual data are analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively, focusing on causality. It has been found that the three accounts are not neutral and that the abolition of slavery was the main but not the sole cause behind the war. 


historiographical debate, constructs, ideology, perspectives, goal-orientation

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