Essays on the Postbellum Southern Economy

Essays on the Postbellum Southern Economy

Essays on the Postbellum Southern Economy

Essays on the Postbellum Southern Economy


A fledgling system of capitalist agriculture transformed former slaves into wage workers and former masters into employers, yet neither group could comfortably fit into its new role. Armstead L. Robinson discusses black freedom in the postbellum South and the new set of social relationships that emerged, while Thavolia Glymph traces the evolution of the share-wage system into sharecropping. Barbara J. Fields explores the erratic advance of capitalism in the New South and its effects on the southern economy. Harold D. Woodman concludes that emancipation alone could not guarantee the triumph of a completely new social order on post-war cotton plantations.


The eighteenth annual Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lectures were presented on March 10, 1983, at the University of Texas at Arlington. The theme was the postbellum southern economy, with a particular focus on the transition to capitalist agriculture in areas previously dominated by chattel slavery. The subject of regional economic differences in the United States was a primary focus of Walter Prescott Webb's scholarship, one that he explored most fully in Divided We Stand. We are sure that he would have joined the large audience in finding these lectures both stimulating and edifying.

With the exception of the introduction by Thavolia Glymph, the essays in this volume were originally delivered as the eighteenth annual Webb Lectures. Barbara J. Fields, of the University of Michigan, Thavolia Glymph, of the University of Texas at Arlington, Armstead L. Robinson, of the University of Virginia, and Harold D. Woodman, of Purdue University, were the invited speakers whose lectures are reproduced in this volume.

On behalf of the Department of History of the University of Texas at Arlington, the editors would like to thank C. B. Smith, Sr., of Austin, Texas, a student and friend of Walter Webb, whose generosity in providing financial support has aided in the presentation of these lectures. We would also like to acknowledge our indebtedness to Jenkins Garrett, a friend and benefactor of the University of Texas at Arlington and the Department of History.

Sue Bailey, of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, gave generously of her time in the preparation of this manuscript. We acknowledge her contributions.


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