John Brown's Raid
Earle, Jonathan, ed. John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2008. This slim volume provides short essays about Brown’s life, abolitionism, the Harpers Ferry raid, and his trial, along with a plethora of primary-source documents concerning Brown’s life and legacy.
Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. The second half of a two-volume work on the growth of the sectional divide during the antebellum period, Freehling offers fresh insight into the ways that Brown’s raid affected Southerners, particularly those agitating for secession.
Potter, David. The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War 1848-1861. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. For decades the standard political history of 1850s America, Potter provides context for Brown’s 1859 raid and explores some of its effects on various groups of Americans, North and South.
Reynolds, David S. John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. New York: Knopf, 2005. The definitive modern biography of Brown, Reynolds places Brown’s views and actions in rich context and provides critical insight into the consequences of his actions at Harpers Ferry and their effect on subsequent events.