The Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders' Worldview

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Presenting many slaveholders as intelligent, honorable and pious men and women, this study asks how people who were admirable in so many ways could have presided over a social system that inflicted gross abuse on slaves. The South had formidable proslavery intellectuals who participated fully in transatlantic debates and boldly challenged an ascendant capitalist ("free-labor") society. Blending classical and Christian traditions, they forged a moral and political philosophy designed to sustain conservative principles in history, political economy, social theory, and theology, while translating them into political action.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In exploring their terrible and complex subject with honesty and sympathy, the authors have grappled heroically with the ambiguity at the heart of history and in the heart of man."
-The Atlantic Monthly

"Extraordinarily erudite. What is most impressive is the authors' ability to tell us precisely what was meant by the innumerable literary and cultural references found in the writings of the slaveholding intellectuals. They seem to have read all the books that their subjects read and talked about and are thus able to get inside their minds to a remarkable degree."
-New York Review of Books

"This book is one that libraries of colleges offering courses in American history ought to acquire."
-Catholic Library World

"Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, focusing as they should on religion and political thought, have turned their immense learning and acuity to presenting the strongest case possible about the slaveholders intellectual and moral virtues, as well as their enormous failings and tragedies. Historians, including those who do not share the Genoveses's Old South sympathies, will find The Mind of the Master Class a commanding and illuminating book."
-Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

"The strength of the book lies in the Genoveses' depth of research and command of the primary sources. The Mind of the Master Class is an important contribution to southern intellectual history and undoubtedly will be read and debated for years to come."
-Adam L. Tate, Clayton State University, Journal of Social History

"...the Genoveses offer us one more insight into the Southern mind." -Hal Goldman, Historie sociale

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521615624
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 824
  • Sales rank: 1,504,748
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese is Eléonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities at Emory University, where she was founding director of Women's Studies. She is Editor of The Journal of The Historical Society and serves on the Governing Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2002–2008). In 2003 President George Bush honored her with a National Humanities Medal, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars honored her with its Cardinal Wright Award. Among her books and published lectures are: The Origins of Physiocracy: Economic Revolution and Social Order in Eighteenth-Century France; Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South; and Feminism without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism.

Eugene D. Genovese, a retired professor of history, served as first president of The Historical Society. Among his books are Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made; The Slaveholders' Dilemma: Southern Conservative Thought, 1820-1860; and A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South. Fox-Genovese and Genovese serve on the editorial boards of a number of scholarly journals and are co-authors of Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism. In 2004 The Intercollegiate Studies Institute presented them jointly with its Gerhard Niemeyer Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scholarship in the Liberal Arts.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Cradled in the storms of revolution
1 "That terrible tragedy" 11
2 The age of revolution through slaveholding eyes 41
3 "The purest sons of freedom" 69
Entr'acte : the bonds of slavery 88
Pt. 2 The inescapable past
4 History as moral and political instruction 125
5 The slaveholders' quest for a history of the common people 170
6 World history and the politics of slavery 201
7 History as the story of freedom 225
Pt. 3 Ancient legacies, medieval sensibility, modern men
8 In the shadow of antiquity 249
9 Coming to terms with the Middle Ages 305
10 The chivalry 329
11 Chivalric slave masters 365
12 Chivalric politics : southern ladies take their stand 383
Pt. 4 A Christian people defend the faith
13 A Christian people 409
14 Unity and diversity among the faithful 444
15 War over the good book 473
16 Slavery : proceeding from the Lord 505
17 The Holy Spirit in the word of God 528
18 Jerusalem and Athens - against Paris 566
19 Serpent in the garden : liberal theology in the South 587
20 Theopolitics : golden rule, higher law, and slavery 613
Coda : St. John of Pottawatamie 636
Pt. 5 At the Rubicon
21 Between individualism and corporatism : from the Reformation to the war for southern independence 649
22 Past and future Caesars 680
Epilogue : King Solomon's dilemma 711
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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Illuminates the efforts of the elite slave owner to justify the slave based economy of the south by references to the "classical world" and the slavery of antiquity. Brilliant research into the leading contemporaneous intellectual publicat

    Without question by 1776 the idea and practice of slavery was "immoral"; such that there was no justification on moral grounds for the perpetuation of the slave trade or the use of slave labor. The failure of the "founding fathers' to recognize this moral truth and nip it in the bud led decades later to the enormous tragedy of the civil war. The "Mind of the Master Class" is a brilliant articulation of the South's defense of the slave labor system. It explores the three arguments of morality, politics, and economics swirling about the problem of slavery from the Southern viewpoint, without providing any justification for Southern rationalization or excuse. A brilliant view into the past.

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