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Contesting Slavery

The Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation
Edited by John Craig Hammond and Matthew Mason

BUY Cloth · 344 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813931050 · $55.00 · Jun 2011
BUY Ebook · 344 pp. · ISBN 9780813931173 · $26.50 · Jun 2011
BUY Paper · 344 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813933054 · $26.50 · Oct 2012

Recent scholarship on slavery and politics between 1776 and 1840 has wholly revised historians’ understanding of the problem of slavery in American politics. Contesting Slavery builds on the best of that literature to reexamine the politics of slavery in revolutionary America and the early republic.

The original essays collected here analyze the Revolutionary era and the early republic on their own terms to produce fresh insights into the politics of slavery before 1840. The collection forces historians to rethink the multiple meanings of slavery and antislavery to a broad array of Americans, from free and enslaved African Americans to proslavery ideologues, from northern farmers to northern female reformers, from minor party functionaries to political luminaries such as Henry Clay.

The essays also delineate the multiple ways slavery sustained conflict and consensus in local, regional, and national politics. In the end, Contesting Slavery both establishes the abiding presence of slavery and sectionalism in American political life and challenges historians’ long-standing assumptions about the place, meaning, and significance of slavery in American politics between the Revolutionary and antebellum eras.

Contributors: Rachel Hope Cleves, University of Victoria * David F. Ericson, George Mason University * John Craig Hammond, Penn State University, New Kensington * Matthew Mason, Brigham Young University * Richard Newman, Rochester Institute of Technology * James Oakes, CUNY Graduate Center * Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia * Robert G. Parkinson, Shepherd University * Donald J. Ratcliffe, University of Oxford * Padraig Riley, Dalhousie University * Edward B. Rugemer, Yale University * Brian Schoen, Ohio University * Andrew Shankman, Rutgers University, Camden * George William Van Cleve, University of Virginia * Eva Sheppard Wolf, San Francisco State University


Contesting Slavery certainly makes a substantial and original contribution to the history of the early republic. The essays, by a wide range of expert scholars, achieve a felicitous balance of new research and synthesis. The book will have a wide readership among scholars of the colonial through Civil War eras.

Elizabeth Varon,, author of, University of Virginia, author of Disunion! The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789–1859

Contesting Slavery is a must-read for anyone who wishes to acquire a deeper understanding of the role slavery played in the early history of the United States. It offers deeper insight into a topic which is often ignored by the right and emphasized (sometimes to the exclusion of all else) by revisionist historians of the left.... Contesting Slavery does a good job in separating the ideological axe from the slavery grindstone.

Martin · What Would The Founders Think?

John Craig Hammond and Matthew Mason’s Contesting Slavery to the select list of outstanding collected volumes.

Glenn Crothers, University of Louisville · The Historian

"This book is quite strong. The contributing essays all reinforce and support the guiding thesis of the anthology. They extend their narrative beyond the scope of traditional histories by moving past a sole focus on the founders and the other great figures of early America."

Jesse F. Cucksee, University of West Georgia · Southern Historian

About the Author(s): 

John Craig Hammond is Assistant Professor of History at Penn State University, New Kensington, and the author of Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion in the Early American West (Virginia). Matthew Mason is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University and the author of Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic.

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