Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Cattle in the Cotton Fields: A History of Cattle Raising in Alabama

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Cattle in the Cotton Fields: A History of Cattle Raising in Alabama

Article excerpt

Cattle in the Cotton Fields: A History of Cattle Raising in Alabama. By Brooks Blevins. (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, c. 1998. Pp. xvi, 219. $34.95, ISBN 0-8173-0940-3.)

Brooks Blevins's thoroughly researched history of cattle raising in Alabama is a welcome sight indeed. Blevins traces the development of his topic from the earliest colonial days until recent years in six appropriately named chapters: The Melding of Traditions; Piney Woods and Plantations; Agricultural Progressivism and the South; The Midwestern Model Meets the South; Cattle in the Cotton Fields; and New Farmers in the New South. Following the lead of renowned cultural geographer Terry G. Jordan in Trails to Texas (Lincoln, Neb., 1981), Blevins begins his book with an explanation of the multicultural, multidirectional diffusion of a cattle culture into southern Alabama. It is hard to realize that the process began nearly three centuries ago and that, by the eve of the American Revolution, Mobile essentially was a cow town. The story of livestock in the Gulf South is truly an international one involving primarily Spanish, French, and British influences via Europe, the Caribbean, Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia. And the narrative becomes even more complex as American Indians quickly adopt virtually all aspects of stock raising. Ironically, one of the earliest and more persistent sources of conflict between Indians and European-Americans stemmed from claims of encroachment on grazing land and rustling of cattle by both peoples. In addition to Jordan, the author relies as well on work by Frank Owsley, Grady McWhiney, Forrest McDonald, and John D. W. Guice.

Blevins demonstrates how the livestock industry varied from region to region in Alabama and how it remained quite important throughout the antebellum era despite the rapid growth of cotton plantations following the War of 1812 and the opening of Indian lands during the famous so-called Flush Times. From the earliest colonial days until the Civil War, planters often depended on livestock as a source of both needed cash and nutrition for their labor force. Throughout Alabama's history, planters played a significant--and at times leading--role in the cattle industry. …

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