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Slave Country: American Expansion and the…

Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South

by Adam Rothman

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As Rothman states in his introduction, “During the republic, slavery’s expansion in the Deep South emerged from contingent global forces, concrete policies pursued by governments, and countless small choices made by thousands of individuals in diverse stations of life.” The question of why and how slavery expanded after the revolution has yet to be answered. Most Americans consider slavery an embarrassment and many feel it unrealistic to question why slavery was not abolished in a post-revolutionary time of independence and achievement. Rothman approaches those issues to explain why slavery was not abolished and why it expanded in the republic.

Rothman uses a variety of good primary source documents for his research and evidence: American State Papers; census and population data and statistics; newspapers; memorials; estate inventories; personal letters and papers; journals and memoirs; public documents and declarations; and legal documents such as petitions, laws, and affidavits. For secondary sources, Rothman consulted a number of journal articles, books, and dissertations that explore topics such as, but not limited to, the rationale of expansion, slaves and slavery, biography on politicians and plantation owners, and international relations. They all contribute appropriately to the book, and all seem to be sound documents and sources.

What I liked best about this book is that it is very complete in the information that it gives. Rothman approaches a complex topic, with many various factors, influences, and causes/effects, and gives readers an in depth view into the expansion of slavery. Rather than be very broad and general, Rothman is full of detail and history to explain its rooting. He gives details and connects it all together in an intricate weave that is still easy to grasp and understand, and makes you understand the true complexity of slavery’s expansion. What I feel hurt the book, though, is that there is a lot of date jumping back and forth. As a result, I found it difficult to keep up with at times and had some difficulty keeping things within a proper mental timeline. Another is that he frequently inserts things happening with Native Americans and places them within the context of slavery, a few times finding rationales that are very loose. While it makes sense to evaluate the impact of Native American slave holders, the book loses focus a few times when there is no direct or important correlation.

If you have ever wanted to take a deeper look into slavery, to ask and then answer the question of how American culture, economy, and politics evolved in such a way as to encourage the institution of slavery, this will be a great book to read. So often we take slavery for granted in the sense that “it was here and it existed,” but its origins are far more complex and layered, full of back and forth, supporters and dissenters, and part of a shifting nation that encouraged freedom while at the same time strengthening the bondage of others. ( )
1 vote morbidromantic | Nov 21, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674024168, Paperback)

Slave Country tells the tragic story of the expansion of slavery in the new United States. In the wake of the American Revolution, slavery gradually disappeared from the northern states and the importation of captive Africans was prohibited. Yet, at the same time, the country's slave population grew, new plantation crops appeared, and several new slave states joined the Union. Adam Rothman explores how slavery flourished in a new nation dedicated to the principle of equality among free men, and reveals the enormous consequences of U.S. expansion into the region that became the Deep South.

Rothman maps the combination of transatlantic capitalism and American nationalism that provoked a massive forced migration of slaves into Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. He tells the fascinating story of collaboration and conflict among the diverse European, African, and indigenous peoples who inhabited the Deep South during the Jeffersonian era, and who turned the region into the most dynamic slave system of the Atlantic world. Paying close attention to dramatic episodes of resistance, rebellion, and war, Rothman exposes the terrible violence that haunted the Jeffersonian vision of republican expansion across the American continent.

Slave Country combines political, economic, military, and social history in an elegant narrative that illuminates the perilous relation between freedom and slavery in the early United States. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in an honest look at America's troubled past.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:43 -0400)

'Slave Country' combines political, economic, military, and social history in an elegant narrative that illuminates the perilous relation between freedom and slavery in the early United States. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in an honest look at America's troubled past.… (more)

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