In the Review Queue: Modernizing a Slave Economy

The “In the Review Queue” series provides TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog readers with a brief look at books Brett Schulte is planning to review here on the blog.  These will be very similar to Drew Wagenhoffer’s “Booknotes” series at Civil War Books and Authors.


UPDATE: Elektratig has a fascinating post about the book…on the first chapter alone!  After reading over Elektratig’s summary and discussion of the topic of Northern and Southern antebellum agricultural practices and the inability of the South to form industrial centers, I suspect I will find this book more interesting than I initially suspected.

On the same day I received Scott Mingus’ new book Flames Beyond Gettysburg, I also picked up Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation, written by John Majewski and published by the University of North Carolina Press.  I haven’t read much economic history of the Civil War, so my review on this one should be interesting to say the least!  However, I picked this book to review specifically to learn more about that facet of Civil War history.  Professor Majewski argues that Southern leaders, contrary to popular belief, were not opposed to industrial development in the South and in fact encouraged this in their nation building.  The brief bibliographic essay near the end of this one looks fascinating and a great starting point for further reading in this direction.

Here is some additional information on the book from the University of North Carolina Press:

Modernizing a Slave Economy

The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation

By John Majewski

Approx. 256 pp., 61/8 x 91/4, 6 illus., 10 tables, 2 maps, append., notes, bibl., index

Civil War America


ISBN  978-0-8078-3251-6

Published: May 2009

What would separate Union and Confederate countries look like if the South had won the Civil War? In fact, this was something that southern secessionists actively debated. Imagining themselves as nation builders, they understood the importance of a plan for the economic structure of the Confederacy.

The traditional view assumes that Confederate slave-based agrarianism went hand in hand with a natural hostility toward industry and commerce. 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.

About the Author

John Majewski is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author of A House Dividing: Economic Development in Pennsylvania and Virginia before the Civil War.

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2 responses to “In the Review Queue: Modernizing a Slave Economy

  1. elektratig Avatar


    I’m betting this book will be quite good. Here’s the H-Net review of Majewski’s earlier book, A House Dividing.

  2. admin Avatar


    Thanks for the tip on his other book. I wasn’t at all familiar with the author prior to receiving this one.


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