Teaching the American Civil War from a Transoceanic Perspective

Institution: Waubonsee Community College

Location: Sugar Grove, Illinois

Participants: Timothy Draper and Amy Powers

Year: 2016

The Global Civil War

In the following, Timothy Draper and Amy Powers provide ideas for ways of bringing global contexts into a unit or course on the American Civil War. They include useful topics to cover, along with primary and secondary source readings. For quick reference to topics and resources, AHA staff has created an HTML version (below). You may also download the original PowerPoint presentation:

The Global Civil War (PDF)

Changing Nature of Warfare


  • Comparison between the US Civil War and the German Wars of Unification
  • Total war, modern war, or a "people's war"?
  • Mobilization
  • Women and the home front
  • An era of nation-building


  • Bender, Thomas. A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.
  • Förster, Stig and Jörg Nagler, eds. On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Foreign Nationals and the War


  • Chinese soldiers
  • Irish soliders
  • English soldiers
  • Latino soldiers


  • Foreman, Amanda. A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War. New York: Random House, 2010.
  • Gleeson, David T. The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
  • Worner, William Frederic. 1921. "A Chinese soldier in the civil war". Historical Papers and Addresses 25: 52-55.

Personal Case Studies

  • Woo Hong Neok (1834-1919)
  • The Fenian Brotherhood
  • Henry Wemyss Feilden

Nationalism and Europe

Discuss with relation to:

  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Ireland

Nationalism and the Pacific

Discuss with relation to:

  • Japan
  • China
  • Hawaii

Nationalism and the Americas

Discuss with relation to:

  • Mexico
  • United States

Ideology and the War


  • Abolitionism: World Anti-Slavery Convention (1840)
  • Transatlantic liberalism
  • Socialism: Marx on America

Applicable Themes for the Classroom

  • Changing nature of 19th-century warfare
  • Global peoples participating in a civil war
  • Civil war, nationalism, and ideology
  • Forgotten theaters of the American Civil War

Resources for Curriculum Design

Resources for the Classroom

Questions for the Classroom

  • Why the need to teach transnational history?
  • What is global and what is national?
  • What is the correct balance between the locality, nation, and the world?
  • How might interdisciplinary connections be made?
  • How may chronology and topicality influence global approaches?