Causes of the Civil War

Learn about the political and social issues surrounding the American Civil War.




For interpreters at Civil War sites, understanding the political and social issues centered on the topic of slavery from the 1840s through the 1860s is vital for creating accurate presentations for the public. This course will help you establish the foundational knowledge you need to create engaging interpretive programs at your site.

See More

Not only will this course recount major events in the decades preceding the war, it will also link you to primary and secondary sources and provide interpretive tips to help you create public programs about the war.

Course Schedule

This course is self-paced, allowing learners the flexibility to complete the course as quickly or slowly as they need. While exploring course content, learners can investigate topics in greater detail through enrichment activities that link to real-world examples, original source materials, and policy documents. Learners can easily move from section to section as they navigate through the course, revisiting concepts as needed.

Elements of the course:

  • Informational text
  • Interactive practice activities
  • Engaging videos
  • Learn More opportunitites
  • Supplemental reference materials
  • Final assessment

After completing all course activities, you will complete a brief assessment to demonstrate your understanding of key course concepts. Upon successful completion of the assessment, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Course Chapters

  • Interpreting the Civil War
  • The Long Road to War: 1840s
  • Compromises and Concessions: 1850s
  • An Ever Widening Gulf: 1850s
  • Election and Destruction
  • The Lost Cause
  • Epilogue

Be able to:

  • Describe the conflicting beliefs about slavery that were the main causes of the American Civil War.
  • Identify useful techniques and strategies for discussing the causes and context of the American Civil War with visitors.
  • Recognize the permission and latitude granted to interpreters by efforts such as the “Rally on the High Ground” initiative.
  • Relate the causes of the war effectively and respectfully to visitors of varying knowledge levels and backgrounds.

Recommended Background

This introductory course is designed for those interested in learning about the social and political issues that led to the Civil War and does not require a background in interpretation or other specific areas of study.


Causes of the Civil WarReview by John W.
I thought it was an excellent course. It refreshed some of the content that I learned in graduate school, and it provided me the opportunity to learn content that I did not get (or did not remember from graduate school. (Posted on 5/2/2020)
I enjoyed this course about the Civil War. I feel there was information that I didn't know much about that I was able to see and learn. I just wish there was more interaction as in like a fun but educating way to remember this information. This course had a lot of information to retain. (Posted on 4/9/2020)
Missing the bottom line, moneyReview by Ted
This basically said the South wanted Slaves and the North thought slavery was immoral.
It did not address the economics of the southern agrarian economy and that an end to slavery would also make the few wealthy southerns poor and powerless. Most chapters had tabs for political and social. A tab for economics needs to be added to each chapter. Also some statics on wealth, who owned slaves and the income of the soldiers for both the north and south. My guess is the soldiers were all poor on both sides and the wealthy were a small percent in both the north and south. I suggest that the course should investigate how money influenced the politics of the north and south. (Posted on 8/21/2018)

Write Your Own Review

You're reviewing: Causes of the Civil War

How do you rate this product? *

  1 star 2 stars 3 stars 4 stars 5 stars