Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South

Article excerpt

Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South. By R. Douglas Hurt. Civil War America. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. Pp. [xiv], 349. Paper, $45.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-2000-8.)

R. Douglas Hurt is the author or editor of twenty-one books and far too many book chapters, articles, and reviews to list. His work has covered virtually every conceivable topic that touches directly or indirectly on anything related to American agriculture. His scholarship ranks him as one of the greatest living historians of American agriculture. His latest book, Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South, focuses on southern agriculture during the Civil War, noting that countless students and scholars of the Civil War have neglected, ignored, and downplayed the importance of agricultural production to the war effort. Simply put, Hurt explores how the South entered the war as a powerful agricultural region that imagined its major source of strength--agriculture--would propel it, if not sustain it, during the ensuing conflict.

Hurt meticulously examines the pattern of southern agriculture and its impact on southern society. He has scoured the archives and read widely to gather evidence that details the role southern agriculture played during the war years. His analysis of the year-to-year changes in the South's agricultural sector is a tour de force. Despite tens of millions of words written about almost every aspect of the Civil War, no other historian has analyzed the impact that politics, economics, and power relations had on the South's greatest weapon: its agricultural sector. Before the Civil War, the South had achieved enormous economic success; but, as Hurt demonstrates, slowly and surely whatever advantages the South had prior to 1861 were eviscerated during the war years. …

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