1861 to 1865 marked a bitter time in U.S. history. Arguments over states’ rights, slavery and the role the federal goverment should play in national affairs brought both the North an South into a terrible conflict that became the American Civil War.

But it wasn’t just Americans who felt the brunt of the war: each battle had global consequences, and Great Britain played an important role in the conflict.

The British Library’s exhibition, “Britain and the American Civil War” commemorates and explores Great Britain’s commercial, strategic and diplomatic involvement in the War Between the States.

For example, attitudes towards the North and the South across social classes and geographic regions greatly influenced British policy towards America, according to the library’s exhibition. “It is usually argued that the British ruling and middle classes took the view that Southern society owed much to British aristocratic and gentlemanly manners and outlook, while the North represented industrial competition with Britain, and remained a bastion of Yankee independence, forever revelling in its overthrow of British rule in the 1770s and 1780s,” it explains.


The exhibition was curated by their Americas and Australasian Studies team and supported by the American Trust for the British Library. Most of the items in the collection have been digitized, and can be found on the library website.