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About the Book

Beyond the Book

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-0-8078-4776-3
Published: October 1999

Domesticating Slavery

The Master Class in Georgia and South Carolina, 1670-1837

By Jeffrey Robert Young

Awards & Distinctions

1999 George C. Rogers Jr. Award for the Best Book in South Carolina History, South Carolina Historical Society

In this carefully crafted work, Jeffrey Young illuminates southern slaveholders' strange and tragic path toward a defiantly sectional mentality. Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence and integrating political, religious, economic, and literary sources, he chronicles the growth of a slaveowning culture that cast the southern planter in the role of benevolent Christian steward--even as slaveholders were brutally exploiting their slaves for maximum fiscal gain.

Domesticating Slavery offers a surprising answer to the long-standing question about slaveholders' relationship with the proliferating capitalistic markets of early-nineteenth-century America. Whereas previous scholars have depicted southern planters either as efficient businessmen who embraced market economics or as paternalists whose ideals placed them at odds with the industrializing capitalist society in the North, Young instead demonstrates how capitalism and paternalism acted together in unexpected ways to shape slaveholders' identity as a ruling elite. Beginning with slaveowners' responses to British imperialism in the colonial period and ending with the sectional crises of the 1830s, he traces the rise of a self-consciously southern master class in the Deep South and the attendant growth of political tensions that would eventually shatter the union.

About the Author

Jeffrey Robert Young is assistant professor of history at Georgia Southern University.


"An important and bracing book with a lot to recommend it. Young deftly weaves political and cultural history to give a textured analytical narrative with admirable temporal breadth. He tells the story in a lively, provocative fashion and shows, with unprecedented clarity, the importance of print culture in fashioning the proslavery defense. Young also makes a persuasive case for locating the emergence of southern proslavery ideology and the beginnings of sectional awareness in the early national period. All of this is to be applauded heartily."
--Journal of the Early Republic

"This work displays a depth of research and a breadth of vision seldom found in first books. . . . Scholars in several fields will read, assign, discuss, and admire Young's study."
--American Historical Review

"[An] engaging and well-researched study. . . . Young's approach is both fresh and broad, and his touch is light."
--Journal of American History

"This will be an important work in the historiography of proslavery thought, by bridging the gap between two distinct perspectives on master-class mentality."
--North Carolina Historical Review

"Young’s theoretical model for slaveholder ideology should inspire other local and regional studies."

"Domesticating Slavery is a provocative and well-written revisionist account of the evolution of paternalism in the Lower South. The author, Jeffrey Young, is one of the rising stars in the field of southern history."
--Peter A. Coclanis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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