What We Are Reading Today: The War Before the War by Andrew Delbanco

The War Before the War — the latest book by Andrew Delbanco — covers everything that led up to the US Civil War and how much went into it. 

It traces how the compromises of the Constitution, along with the long history of compromise in the century that followed, tried to paper over the violent reality of slavery and eventually brought the nation to war. 

“This is a story about compromises — and a riveting, unsettling one at that,” Jennifer Szalai writes in the New York Times. 

Szalai also said that Delbanco “excavates the past in ways that illuminate the present. Some of the questions that preoccupied Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continue to hold an eerie and urgent resonance in our own.”

Delbanco, born in 1952, is director of American Studies at Columbia University and has been Columbia’s Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities since 1995. He writes extensively on American literary and religious history.

A review published in goodreads.com stated: “It was well-researched and had a breadth of information to cover, which it did very well. At times it was repetitive, but it wasn’t bad enough to be a distraction and detract from the overall effect.” 

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