The Southern Common People: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Social History

The Southern Common People: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Social History

The Southern Common People: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Social History

The Southern Common People: Studies in Nineteenth-Century Social History

Synopsis

"[The 18 essays] will be welcomed by specialists in Southern history....[Each] author has in some way shed light on the essential questions of just who the Southern commoners were and how they related to the other constituents of the social structure. Lists of suggested further readings enhance the value of this one-of-a-kind anthology. No serious student of the South should neglect it." -Library Journal

Excerpt

Over the past two decades, the nineteenth-century South has inspired much historical writing, including studies of the South's prewar planters and post- war commercial elites, politics and leadership, and slavery and freedom. Books and articles on slavery and the freedman have given special attention to family life, work habits, religious beliefs, and how blacks related to the white upper classes. The postwar decline of plantation society, economic upheavals, and the populist movements have received excellent treatment. These works, many of which employ the techniques of the new economic and social history, have made the nineteenth-century South more intelligible to the scholar and the student.

However, the social life and labor experiences of the great mass of the white folk have received neither the quantity nor the quality of study that has been given to slaves and elite planters, politicians, and intellectuals. Yet those non- elites included, among others, small farmers, herdsmen, common and skilled laborers, artisans, shopkeepers, and "poor whites," who had important roles in the economic growth, the political changes, and the social life of the nine- teenth-century South. Along with the emerging professionals--lawyers, doctors, and bankers--they made up the so-called middle classes. In this volume, space permits concentration only on the landowning farmers, herdsmen, and urban merchants and laborers. Slaves and free blacks, lawyers and bankers, and relations of "poor whites" to the middle classes are often mentioned. For the sake of historical accuracy, we prefer to use the accepted term of the period, the "common people," rather than "middle class" to refer to the southerners described in this volume.

It becomes evident by our simple grouping of the common people that the major task of those who would study the part they played in the momentous up-

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