What Was Freedom's Price? Essays

By Willie Lee Rose; Joel Williamson et al. | Go to book overview

Sharecropping: Market Response or Mechanism of Race Control?

RICHARD SUTCH & ROGER RANSOM

Economists have for some time been interested--fascinated might be a more apt word--in the structure and performance of the economy of the American South during the early nineteenth century. The initial effort in 1958 by Alfred Conrad and John Meyer to measure the "profitability" of antebellum slavery produced a vigorous debate. 1 Originally, the economists who turned their attention to this issue felt they were settling a longstanding debate among historians by bringing more sophisticated economic analysis to bear on the problem. But it soon became apparent that the historical issues were more subtle and complex than first formulated. The debate expanded into a general discussion of the viability of the slave economy and the nature of southern economic development. The publication in 1971 of a collection of essays, written by both historians and economists, on the question "Did slavery pay?" served to demonstrate that the investigation into the full range of historical issues had only begun. 2 Indeed, several economists had by that time launched full-scale investigations into the slave economy. Robert Gallman, William Parker, and their students concentrated on the structure of the antebellum southern economy, production relationships, interregional trade flows, distribution of wealth, and related topics. 3 Recently Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman have

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