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Frederick Law Olmsted, the northerner who wrote comprehensively about his travels in the South, had no southern counterpart. But there were thousands of southerners -- planters, merchants, bankers, students, housewives, writers, and politicians -- who traveled extensively in the North and who recorded their impressions in letters to their families, in articles for the local press, and in the few books they wrote.
In A Southern Odyssey the distinguished historian John Hope Franklin canvasses the entire field of southern travel and analyzes the travelers and their accounts of what they saw in the North. Many went out of sheer curiosity. Others went on business, to get an education, to make purchases for the store and home, to attend religious or political conventions, or to instruct northerners about the superior qualities of the southern way of life and warn them of the dangers of unbridled abolitionist attacks.
The more they went, the more they doubted the wisdom of spending money among their enemies. But they continued to go, even against their own advice to fellow southerners, and some tarried until the attack on Fort Sumter.
Concentrating as it does on the human side of North-South relations during the antebellum years, A Southern Odyssey represents a fresh and imaginative approach to a long overlooked chapter in southern history. It is also a handsome book, with twenty illustrations that comprise "An Album of Southern Travel."