Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale University
If you think the conflict in today’s U.S. Congress is at a historic extreme, Yale historian Joanne Freeman helps set the record straight. In The Field of Blood, Freeman explores the history of graphic, physical conflict on the floor of the U.S. Congress in the decades leading up to the Civil War, when legislative sessions were punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and even all-out slugfests. Congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives and many were beaten, bullied, and coerced into compliance on the issue of slavery. One representative even killed another in a duel. But beyond simply exploring the shock value of the level of menace and impropriety that these historic encounters represented, Freeman suggests that these physical altercations were not coincidental to the war that was to come, but rather an integral part of the road to war itself.