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The South, The Nation, and The World

Perspectives on Southern Economic Development
David L. Carlton and Peter A. Coclanis

BUY Paper · ISBN 9780813921853 · $25.00 · Apr 2003

Like the rest of British North America, the American South was "born capitalist." The slave plantation, then, was essentially a form of business enterprise like any other—indeed, one quite modern and sophisticated for its time. There were initially very few significant differences in business culture between the northern and southern parts of what became the United States. Yet the plantation placed its peculiar stamp on the South, and vice versa, and its path of development diverged increasingly from that of the growing manufacturing belt of the North.

In their essays collected in The South, the Nation, and the World, David Carlton and Peter Coclanis effectively argue that the chronic economic difficulties of the American South cannot simply be explained away as resulting from a distinctive "premodern" business climate, because there was actually very little variation between one region’s business climate and another’s during the Antebellum period. Instead, it was the collapse of the slave regime in the 1860s that left the South in dire need of economic restructuring, and by Reconstruction the emergent American economy had foreclosed options formerly available to southern enterprise. Forced to play catch-up, southerners have had at best mixed success in the continuing struggle to create an economic life affording stable growth and broad opportunity to all the region’s people—and Carlton and Coclanis offer a fascinating illumination of the twists and turns in that economic history.


"This important collection questions traditional explanations of southern exceptionalism and provides alternatives for understanding the complexities of the southern experience. Necessary reading for any student of the South.


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