From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South: Central Georgia, 1800-1880

Synopsis

The spread of slavery in the antebellum period and the subsequent emancipation of some four million slaves as a result of the Civil War reflected changes sweeping the entire Atlantic basin during the nineteenth century. This broad-ranging study examines the origins, growth, and demise of slavery in the upcountry South. Focusing on a representative cotton plantation region, central Georgia, Joseph Reidy assesses these historical changes within the larger context of capitalist development in the North and the abolition of slavery elsewhere in the Americas. Reidy's analysis illuminates the complex interplay between global economic developments and the lives of ordinary southerners, black and white. The shifting pattern of struggle among evolving social classes provides the key. Unlike other scholars who have focused more or less exclusively on planters, on slaves, or on yeomen, Reidy explores the interaction among these and other classes over time in order to achieve a comprehensive understanding ofthe nineteenth-century South. Covering both the antebellum and post-bellum periods, the narrative pays special attention to how African Americans shaped their own lives as well as influenced larger historical processes - for, as Reidy points out, they were agents of historical change rather than purely objects or victims of that change.