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Turning conventional wisdom on its head, John Majewski's analysis finds that secessionists strongly believed in industrial development and state-led modernization. They blamed the South's lack of development on Union policies of discriminatory taxes on southern commerce and unfair subsidies for northern industry. Majewski argues that Confederates' opposition to a strong central government was politically tied to their struggle against northern legislative dominance.

Once the Confederacy was formed, those who had advocated states' rights in the national legislature in order to defend against northern political dominance quickly came to support centralized power and a strong executive for war making and nation building. For more information about John Majewski, visit the Author Page. Offers an outstanding example of how modern political economy can be interdisciplinary, empirically rigorous, and accessible.

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Such an approach provides him with a broad compass of sensibilities that make the analysis well articulated and sophisticated at every turn. The environmental argument constitutes the core around which Majewski? Through it, he illustrates the distance separating reality from imagination in the economic vision of white southerners, as well as in northern perceptions and representations of the South?

By showing that the extremely widespread use of shifting — as opposed to continuous — cultivation was determined by the highly acidic composition of much of the South? In fact, by leaving vast stretches of land unimproved, shifting cultivation resulted in low population density. This, in turn, generated negative effects on the extent and depth of markets and on transportation costs: two essential factors for the development and expansion of the manufacturing sector.

Slavery, of course, aggravated the situation but, as the case of Maryland well illustrates, was not the primary cause for either shifting cultivation or the South? While only a relatively small number of enlightened southerners fully understood the real nature of the problem with southern agriculture, most believed that it could be solved through a vast reform program.

However, because of the complexity and scope of the actions needed, this could only be pursued through the support of state governments. Investment was needed in the fields of research and education, and in the funding of local agricultural societies that might introduce farmers to a correct use of fertilizers and to the advantages of crop rotation.


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Steps forward were made during the last few antebellum decades, but the results obtained did not match the efforts lavished by agricultural reformers. Majewski rightly ascribes those meager results to the relatively low short-term return that the southern state governments anticipated from massive investment in agriculture as opposed to more? The connection Majewski identifies between agricultural reformism, pleas for state intervention in the economy, and secessionism is crucial to his thesis that social conservatism and economic development coexisted in the secessionists?

Political independence, in fact, was only an empty word if not accompanied by certain economic requisites — a manufacturing base to free themselves from northern dependence, and the establishment of direct trade links with Europe.

How Black Union Soldiers Went from Slavery to Forever Free

Toward the achievement of these goals, the modernization of agriculture was central. As Majewski effectively contends, the strong focus secessionists placed on agriculture has been wrongly understood as revealing their adhesion to a traditional, outmoded vision of the South? Quite the contrary, it conveyed their awareness that the quest for southern political independence implied economic diversification, including industrialization.

In their envisioning of an independent southern Confederacy, secessionists were, however, caught in the straits of a number of more or less apparent inconsistencies. For example, they criticized the activist government and the gospel of modernization embraced by northerners while at the same time placing these very assumptions at the core of their southern nationalism.

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As Majewski points out, the advocacy of state-promoted economic policies dated back to the antebellum era. The example of railroads is revealing in this regard. Heavy spending in railroad construction by the southern state governments — and eminently by those of Virginia and South Carolina — stemmed from the belief that this sort of intervention could make up for the structural problems impairing a? Due to the sparseness and scantiness of the population, the building of railroads could not be sustained — as in the North — by local communities; but if the lines were built thanks to massive public investment, their beneficial effects would reverberate on the economy as a whole, stimulating the growth of commerce and manufacturing, opening new prospects for international trade, and uniting the several parts of the South.


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  • Turning conventional wisdom on its head, John Majewski's analysis finds that secessionists strongly believed in industrial development and state-led modernization. They blamed the South's lack of development on Union policies of discriminatory taxes on southern commerce and unfair subsidies for northern industry.

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    Majewski argues that Confederates' opposition to a strong central government was politically tied to their struggle against northern legislative dominance. Once the Confederacy was formed, those who had advocated states' rights in the national legislature in order to defend against northern political dominance quickly came to support centralized power and a strong executive for war making and nation building. Toon meer Toon minder. Recensie s Majewski presents a bold, revisionist argument that should inspire continued study and debate.

    The book's strong interdisciplinary focus will appeal to all historians of the Civil War and the south. This book should have an impact not only on debates about slavery and economic development but also on the coming of secession and southern political ideology. Builds a bridge between the Old South and the New South and adds to the findings of scholars interested in the construction of mythic Souths both Old and New. Offers an outstanding example of how modern political economy can be interdisciplinary, empirically rigorous, and accessible.

    Majewski makes a stimulating argument that calls into question many comfortable assumptions about the development of secessionist thought. Makes exciting contributions to the history of political economy of the United States before the Civil War.

    Modernizing a Slave Economy

    Net Majewski's book asks important questions about the rise and fall of Confederate economic nationalism and sounds a clarion call for future state studies. Brings a fresh approach, particularly in his statistical analysis of agricultural data, to several nagging historical questions. Should be of interest to all students of the nineteenth-century American economy.