The Bible taught black and white Southerners long ago what historians are now asserting: that the family is a crucial determinant of human behavior. Because many questions of southern history have reached a stage of debate where we now need to investigate the issues in the most concrete surroundings possible, I am engaged in an ongoing study of life in one rural county, Edgefield, South Carolina. There family and community mesh together in the kind of setting where most nineteenth-century Southerners played out their roles.
I have tried to construct as much as possible a total, almost encyclopedic, history of nineteenth-century Edgefield families and their communities. On most subjects, I have let the people of nineteenth-century Edgefield speak for themselves. For example, as interpreted in their churches and homes, the religious views of nineteenth-century Edgefieldians, for most, evangelical Protestantism, explained the meaning of their existence.
The history of the South was and is the history of both blacks and whites. I have tried to explore how all Southerners lived before and after the Civil War in an agrarian society. With this project completed, I see that I have just begun that exploration, and I plan in other works to examine the interaction of Edgefield blacks and whites in more detail.
One reason why I selected Edgefield as a case study is that it affords an abundance of excellent scholarship. Edgefield's local history association has been most active in acquiring information over the years, and my debt is great to a number of local genealogists and historians. I greatly benefited from Richard Maxwell Brown's works, especially his essay that focused on Edgefield for a national audience. Edgefieldian Francis Butler Simkins's books and articles are invaluable guides to understanding Edgefield. Published biographies exist for Louis Wigfall, William Gregg, George McDuffie, Daniel Augustus Tompkins, and Thomas Green Clemson. James Henry Hammond has attracted four biographers, three of whom have had their works published: Elizabeth Merritt, Robert C. Tucker, Drew Gilpin Faust, and Carol Bleser. Dissertations have treated Francis W. Pickens, Daniel Augustus Tompkins, Benjamin Ryan Tillman, John Gary Evans, and J. Strom Thurmond. Recent dissertations of a more social science character have also focused on Edgefield as part of the Augusta hinterlands. Randolph Werner applied central place