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American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of Antebellum Richmond

Overview

As a city of the upper South intimately connected to the northeastern cities, the southern slave trade, and the Virginia countryside, Richmond embodied many of the contradictions of mid-nineteenth-century America. Gregg D. Kimball expands the usual scope of urban studies by depicting the Richmond community as a series of dynamic, overlapping networks to show how various groups of Richmonders understood themselves and their society. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and private letters, Kimball elicits new ...

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Overview

As a city of the upper South intimately connected to the northeastern cities, the southern slave trade, and the Virginia countryside, Richmond embodied many of the contradictions of mid-nineteenth-century America. Gregg D. Kimball expands the usual scope of urban studies by depicting the Richmond community as a series of dynamic, overlapping networks to show how various groups of Richmonders understood themselves and their society. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and private letters, Kimball elicits new perspectives regarding people’s sense of identity.

Kimball first situates the city and its residents within the larger American culture and Virginia countryside, especially noting the influence of plantation society and culture on Richmond’s upper classes. Kimball then explores four significant groups of Richmonders: merchant families, the city’s largest black church congregation, ironworkers, and militia volunteers. He describes the cultural world in which each group moved and shows how their perceptions were shaped by connections to and travels within larger economic, cultural, and ethnic spheres. Ironically, the merchant class’s firsthand knowledge of the North confirmed and intensified their “southernness,” while the experience of urban African Americans and workers promoted a more expansive sense of community.

This insightful work ultimately reveals how Richmonders’ self-perceptions influenced the decisions they made during the sectional crisis, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, showing that people made rational choices about their allegiances based on established beliefs. American City, Southern Place is an important work of social history that sheds new light on cultural identity and opens a new window on nineteenth-century Richmond.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A brilliant and beautifully crafted study of the complex relationship among the concept of place, the construction of cultural identity, and, ultimately, the political choices people make."—American Historical Review

"A rich study of Richmond's antebellum society and culture that explores the manners, styles, and outlooks of its inhabitants. . . . A valuable addition to the growing historiography of urban places in the South."—Journal of American History

"A carefully researched, clearly written, and thoroughly engaging social history."—Journal of Southern History

“Kimball's training and experience as both an academic and public historian combine the former's interpretive insights with the latter's talent for communicating succinctly and clearly with an eye for the relevant detail. A complex picture emerges of a city and a people carefully balancing their economic involvement with a larger urban world and their cultural attachment to Virginia and the South."—David Goldfield, Southern Cultures

"American City, Southern Place is beautifully written, deeply researched, and informed by a humane understanding of all manner of people."—Daniel W. Crofts, author of Cobb's Ordeal

"Kimball's book is a brilliant and beautifully crafted study of the complex relationship among the concept of place, the construction of cultural identity, and, ultimately, the political choices people make. . . . [An] important and compelling work.”—Kathleen C. Berkeley, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

"Well written and well argued . . . An important contribution to the study of antebellum southern urbanization. Kimball's exhaustive research in a wide variety of manuscript sources allows him to show the evolution of an 'American' city that had distinctly southern roots."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"This book is social history at its best. It is history at its most exciting. For it is the story of human beings caught in time and struggling for a place in posterity."—James L. Robertson, Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820325460
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 11/3/2003
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 520,147
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregg D. Kimball is director of the Publications and Educational Services Division of the Library of Virginia.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures, Table, and Maps ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xv
Part 1 Richmond in the 1850s
Chapter 1. Capital and Commercial City 3
Chapter 2. American City in a Southern Place 37
Part 2 Connections and Consciousness
Chapter 3. The World of Goods 83
Chapter 4. Liberty and Slavery 124
Chapter 5. Strangers, Slaves, and Southern Iron 159
Chapter 6. Virginia and Union 183
Part 3 Choosing Sides
Chapter 7. The War Within 217
Epilogue. The Antebellum Legacy 253
Notes 263
Bibliography 315
Index 329
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