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"The most valuable and stimulating general interpretation of the Old South to appear in recent years."—George M. Fredrickson
This pathbreaking interpretation of the slaveholding South begins with the insight that slavery and freedom were not mutually exclusive but were intertwined in every dimension of life in the South. James Oakes traces the implications of this insight for relations between masters and slaves, slaveholders and non-slaveholders, and for the rise of a racist ideology.
Posted February 9, 2003
this is a very good piece of historical anaylsis of the dynamics of slavery in the south. Oakes demonstrates contrary to the "romantic" myth of the large southern plantation system, slavery was often actually in practice a more diffused system of southern individuals who after 1800 came to see slavery not from the view of paternalism which was the former, more elitist colonial era justification but rather was the product of the 'upward mobility' of consumer captilism of the 19 century. He gives great detail of the religous and enthnic variances and underpinning of slavery during the antebellum era but clearly refutes the notion that slavery was either 'benign' or mainly practiced as a paternalistic enterprise. he doesn't' discount paternalism as a model but rather demonstrates that this was a decaying foundation upon which the southern slaveholder by 1840 was changing. The book is rich in presenting the slaveholder and slave views on the peculiar institution 'in their own words' This fact, combined with the notion that slavery as a system was never, even to the planter class, seldom practiced as an 'ideal' Oakes obviously did a tremendous amount of research and writes the book from an empathetic but objective view of slavery. He does not spare the use of former historians on the subject but attempts to make the reader to see slavery in a new light...one more realistic from both the slave and the 'average' slaveholder often changing, mobile and sometimes, humble status
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