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The mythologizing began soon after the last shots were fired in the Civil War. Rebel diehards who clung to the notion that the Confederacy was a noble “lost cause” argued that the South failed in its quest for independence only because of the overwhelming military resources of the Union. “What has long been overlooked is that the Confederacy fell victim not just to enemy armies, but also to the poverty of its proslavery, antidemocratic vision of the future and the determined resistance of its own people,” says Stephanie McCurry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South. In our cover story, “The Confederacy: America’s Worst Idea,” McCurry argues that as we approach the 150th anniversary of secession this December, it’s time to take an unromanticized look at the Confederate States of America and how it collapsed under the weight of its own moral and political contradictions.