The challenge of explaining the Civil War has led historians to seek clarity in two ways of thought. One school, the fundamentalists, emphasizes the intrinsic, inevitable conflict between slavery and free labor. The other, the revisionists, emphasizes discrete events and political structures rather than slavery itself. Both sides see crucial parts of the problem, but it has proved difficult to reconcile the perspectives because they approach the Civil War with different assumptions about what drives history.

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Copyright © 2005 North & South, Inc. This article first appeared in North & South: The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society 8:5 (2005), 12-18.

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