This pathbreaking social history of the slaveholding South marks a turn in our understanding of antebellum America and the coming of the Civil War. Oakes’s bracing analysis breaks the myth that slaveholders were a paternalistic aristocracy dedicated to the values of honor, race, and section. Instead they emerge as having much in common with their entrepreneurial counterparts in the North: they were committed to free-market commercialism and political democracy for white males. The Civil War was not an inevitable conflict between civilizations on different paths but the crack-up of a single system, the result of people and events.
James Oakes is the author of several acclaimed books on slavery and the Civil War, including The Ruling Race, The Scorpion’s Sting, The Radical and the Republican, and Slavery and Freedom. His history of emancipation, Freedom National, won the Lincoln… More about James Oakes