Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South

By Grady McWhiney | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

THE Celtic interpretation of southern history, to which this volume is a major contribution, can be summed up in two general propositions. One is that, by virtue of historical accident, the American colonies south and west of Pennsylvania were peopled during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mainly by immigrants from the "Celtic fringe" of the British archipelago--the western and northern uplands of England, Wales, the Scottish Highlands and Borders, the Hebrides, and Ireland--and that the culture these people brought with them and to a large extent retained in the New World accounts in considerable measure for the differences between them and the Yankees of New England, most of whom originated in the lowland southeastern half of the island of Britain. The second is that the material culture underlying the traditional folkways, values, norms, and attitudes both in the upland areas prior to the eighteenth century and in the antebellum South was primarily related to herding in contrast to the commercial mixed agriculture that was the norm both in southeastern Britain and in New England.

For a number of years Grady McWhiney and I have been investigating various aspects of this thesis, sometimes jointly, sometimes separately. Jointly, for example, we have studied immigration history and devised methods of estimating the ethnic makeup of the American population through name analysis (see Chapter I below). The results of such study are necessarily imprecise, but they tend to bear out the first proposition: in each of the decennial censuses from 1790 through 1860, about half of the white population of the South was of Irish, Scottish, or Welsh extraction, and about half of the remainder had originated in the western and northern English uplands. Upwards of three-quarters of the population of New England was of English lowlands extraction and continued to be so until the massive influx of Irish immigrants after the Great Famine of the 1840s.

-xxi-

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Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Prologue xxi
  • I - Settlement 1
  • II - Heritage 23
  • III - Herding 51
  • IV - Hospitality 80
  • V - Pleasures 105
  • VI - Violence 146
  • VII - Moral 171
  • VIII - Education 193
  • IX - Progress 218
  • X - Worth 245
  • XI - Collision 268
  • Appendix - Sources on the Origins of Surnames 273
  • Index 278
  • About the Author 291
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