Rarely do I get enough time to read, that is until I vacationed near Grayson Highlands State Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. We had rented a lovely cabin and, yes, a stream ran through the property. While there was satellite TV, there was no cell coverage and no internet.
Fortunately, when not hiking or napping, I had “A World on Fire” by Amanda Foreman to read. This lovely book, in excess of 700 pages, explores the diplomatic relations between Britain, the US and the Confederate States during the Civil War. There are also side stories about France and other European relations, but the focus really is on that tempestuous triangle of the US, the CSA and Britain.
Every battle win, lose or draw, seemed to swing the pendulum as to whether or when Britain would recognize the Confederate States as a sovereign nation and puncture or ignore the Northern blockade of the South.
The South believed that “King Cotton” was its ace up its sleeve and that out of economic interests alone Britain would side with the South. The South also counted on its “cavalier” connection with Britain as an emotional pivot point in CSA/British relations.
Of course, the North feared both of the above but quietly and in a belabored fashion plied the slavery card and the underlying, unassailable deterrent to Britain supporting the South.
There are intrigues in espionage, Canadian schemes and Parliamentary tricks which all add to the confused state of diplomacy.
In reading the book I was again reminded that those of us who love history know that no given outcome of the past was inevitable.