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France and the American Civil War

A Diplomatic History

By Stève Sainlaude

Translated by Jessica Edwards. Foreword by Don H. Doyle.

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4994-8
    Published: March 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4995-5
    Published: February 2019

Civil War America

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France's involvement in the American Civil War was critical to its unfolding, but the details of the European power's role remain little understood. Here, Stève Sainlaude offers the first comprehensive history of French diplomatic engagement with the Union and the Confederate States of America during the conflict. Drawing on archival sources that have been neglected by scholars up to this point, Sainlaude overturns many commonly held assumptions about French relations with the Union and the Confederacy. As Sainlaude demonstrates, no major European power had a deeper stake in the outcome of the conflict than France.

Reaching beyond the standard narratives of this history, Sainlaude delves deeply into questions of geopolitical strategy and diplomacy during this critical period in world affairs. The resulting study will help shift the way Americans look at the Civil War and extend their understanding of the conflict in global context.

About the Authors

Steve Sainlaude is associate professor of history at the University of Paris IV Sorbonne.
For more information about Stève Sainlaude, visit the Author Page.

Jessica Edwards is an independent translator.
For more information about Jessica Edwards, visit the Author Page.

Don H. Doyle is McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina.
For more information about Don H. Doyle, visit the Author Page.


"American scholars will find a different perspective on the Civil War's international effects as told from the viewpoint of one of the outside powers whose approach was more complex than they may have previously believed."--America's Civil War

“Explores in considerable detail the intentions and actions of multiple diplomatic officials, especially foreign ministers.”--Choice Reviews

“A marvelous book that contains fascinating analysis about French diplomacy during the U.S. Civil War. . . . This is a volume that will appeal to anyone interested in diplomacy and foreign relations during this period.”--Civil War Monitor

“Provides a much-needed counterpoint to the prevailing view that French diplomacy during the American Civil War had an influence clearly secondary to Britain’s and looked to its neighbor across the channel to lead the way on U.S.-Confederate policy matters. . . . Highly original, nuanced, and deeply persuasive.”--Civil War Books and Authors

“A concise, readable, and informative monograph. . . . [Sainlaude’s] work provides a useful look at the diplomacy that secured the Union victory and began the shaping of a newly modern world.”--The Journal of America’s Military Past

"Most studies of Civil War diplomacy focus on British relations with the Union and Confederacy, but Sainlaude makes a strong case that French policy deserves more attention than it has received, especially given the consequences of France's intervention in the simultaneous civil war in Mexico. And the insights derived from wartime reports by French consuls in both Northern and Southern cities give this book a fresh perspective on the American war."--James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era