Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South

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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.
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Editorial Reviews

“Intriguing.... Oakes goes where few historians have gone before.... He has produced a solidly researched, provocative account of the Old South that will make its readers think and rethink.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a rich, challenging set of interpretive essays, Oakes ( The Ruling Race ) views slavery in the Old South as a product of liberal capitalism, yet an institution wholly at odds with liberal concepts of freedom and society. He demonstrates how slavery hindered the growth of a class of independent small farmers; how the master-slave relationship affected the fabric of every other relationship in the South; how violence, sexual abuse, personal degradation and the breakup of families were basic components of the slave system. A historian at Northwestern University, Oakes shows that slave resistance during the Civil War fostered the Confederacy's internal collapse--a phenomenon slighted by most historians. The concluding chapter traces the postwar emergence of a new landlord-merchant class that wielded political power against landless Southerners, black and white. Oakes's rewarding synthesis strips away myths and misconceptions surrounding slavery and its aftermath. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Slavery and freedom must always be understood in context, and the appropriate context in the Old South was liberal capitalism, historian Oakes argues in five telescopic essays. Weaving an interpretive synthesis, he fixes on slavery's problematic relationships in a dynamic economy and polity moving with revolutionary power to define freedom with an ever-increasing universalism that the Old South selectively embraced and eschewed. Oakes's powerful little book surges with fresh rejoinders to much of the most important work on the nature of slavery, the South, and the American nation.--Highly recommended.-- Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393317664
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 829,749
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

James Oakes is the author of several acclaimed books on slavery and the Civil War. His history of emancipation, Freedom National, won the Lincoln Prize and was longlisted for the National Book Award. He is Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2003

    A detailed history of the Southern Slaveholder

    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 more realistic from both the slave and the 'average' slaveholder often changing, mobile and sometimes, humble status

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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