Princes of Cotton: Four Diaries of Young Men in the South, 1848-1860

Princes of Cotton: Four Diaries of Young Men in the South, 1848-1860

by Stephen Berry
     
 

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A rogue, a megalomaniac, a plodder, and a depressive: the men whose previously unpublished diaries are collected in this volume were four very different characters. But they had much in common too. All were from the Deep South. All were young, between seventeen and twenty-five. All had a connection to cotton and slaves. Most obviously, all were diarists,

Overview

A rogue, a megalomaniac, a plodder, and a depressive: the men whose previously unpublished diaries are collected in this volume were four very different characters. But they had much in common too. All were from the Deep South. All were young, between seventeen and twenty-five. All had a connection to cotton and slaves. Most obviously, all were diarists, enduring night upon night of cramped hands and candle bugs to write out their lives.

Down the furrows of their fathers' farms, through the thickets of their local woods, past the familiar haunts of their youth, Harry Dixon, Henry Hughes, John Coleman, and Henry Craft arrive at manhood via journeys they narrate themselves. All would be swept into the Confederate Army, and one would die in its service. But if their manhood was tested in the war, it was formed in the years before, when they emerged from their swimming holes, sopping with boyhood, determined to become princes among men.

Few books exist about the inner lives of southern males, especially those in adolescence and early adulthood. Princes of Cotton begins to remedy this shortage. These diaries, along with Stephen Berry's introduction, address some of the central questions in the study of southern manhood: how masculine ideals in the Old South were constructed and maintained; how males of different ages and regions resisted, modified, or flouted those ideals; how those ideals could be expressed differently in public and private; and how the Civil War provoked a seismic shift in southern masculinity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Stephen Berry's presentation of the diaries of four young southern men joins a growing and rich literature on southern masculinities. He is acutely sensitive to the prerogatives and ultimate responsibilities of southern white manhood, but he neither excuses his subjects' fallibilities nor exalts their achievements. With an introduction and epilogue that are at once wonderfully imagined and beautifully written, Princes of Cotton raises important questions about the multivariate ways in which men conceptualized honor, mastery, and themselves. Berry has performed a real service by demonstrating the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of white manhood in the antebellum South."--Craig T. Friend, North Carolina State University

"That the lost generation of World War I in Europe has received such study and the generation lost in the Civil War has not is astounding. The fact will not be corrected by one volume, but these texts are an extraordinary place to begin. The introduction is elegant and does a superb job of framing the challenges that an emergent gender history faces in addressing young, unmarried men in the antebellum South as well as more generally in the mid-nineteenth century."--David Moltke-Hansen, President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

"Princes of Cotton is an extraordinary contribution to southern history. Stephen Berry will surely be lauded for his superb performance of literary service."--McCormick Messenger

North Carolina State University - Craig T. Friend

Stephen Berry's presentation of the diaries of four young southern men joins a growing and rich literature on southern masculinities. He is acutely sensitive to the prerogatives and ultimate responsibilities of southern white manhood, but he neither excuses his subjects' fallibilities nor exalts their achievements. With an introduction and epilogue that are at once wonderfully imagined and beautifully written, Princes of Cotton raises important questions about the multivariate ways in which men conceptualized honor, mastery, and themselves. Berry has performed a real service by demonstrating the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of white manhood in the antebellum South.

President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania - David Moltke-Hansen

That the lost generation of World War I in Europe has received such study and the generation lost in the Civil War has not is astounding. The fact will not be corrected by one volume, but these texts are an extraordinary place to begin. The introduction is elegant and does a superb job of framing the challenges that an emergent gender history faces in addressing young, unmarried men in the antebellum South as well as more generally in the mid-nineteenth century.

McCormick Messenger

Princes of Cotton is an extraordinary contribution to southern history. Stephen Berry will surely be lauded for his superb performance of literary service.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820344263
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
01/01/2013
Series:
The Publications of the Southern Texts Society Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
576
Sales rank:
1,288,448
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Stephen Berry is associate professor of history at the University of Georgia. He is the author of House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War and All That Makes a Man: Love and Ambition in the Civil War South and the editor of Princes of Cotton: Four Diaries of Young Men in the South, 1848-1860 (Georgia).

Michael O'Brien is Professor of American Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Jesus College, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was the longtime series editor of the Publications of the Southern Texts Society. O'Brien is the author or editor of several books on southern intellectual history, including the Bancroft Prize-winner Conjectures of Order, which was also a Nominated Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History.

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