The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, 1800-1861

By: Jonathan Daniel Wells.

Price: $22.50

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With a fresh take on social dynamics in the antebellum South, Jonathan Daniel Wells contests the popular idea that the Old South was a region of essentially two classes (planters and slaves) until after the Civil War. He argues that, in fact, the region had a burgeoning white middle class--including merchants, doctors, and teachers--that had a profound impact on southern culture, the debate over slavery, and the coming of the Civil War.

Wells shows that the growth of the periodical press after 1820 helped build a cultural bridge between the North and the South, and the emerging southern middle class seized upon northern middle-class ideas about gender roles and reform, politics, and the virtues of modernization. Even as it sought to emulate northern progress, however, the southern middle class never abandoned its attachment to slavery. By the 1850s, Wells argues, the prospect of industrial slavery in the South threatened northern capital and labor, causing sectional relations to shift from cooperative to competitive. Rather than simply pitting a backward, slave-labor, agrarian South against a progressive, free-labor, industrial North, Wells argues that the Civil War reflected a more complex interplay of economic and cultural values.

Title: The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, 1800-1861

Author: Jonathan Daniel Wells.

Illustrator: Reg. Price: $22.50

Categories: Life & Times, Southern States,

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press: c2004

ISBN Number: 0807855537

ISBN Number 13: 9780807855539

Binding: paperback

Book Details: 344 pages, 6 x 9 1/4, 15 illus., 9 tables, append., notes, bibl., index, paperback, University of North Carolina Press

Seller ID: 855537

Description: With a fresh take on social dynamics in the antebellum South, Jonathan Daniel Wells contests the popular idea that the Old South was a region of essentially two classes (planters and slaves) until after the Civil War. He argues that, in fact, the region had a burgeoning white middle class--including merchants, doctors, and teachers--that had a profound impact on southern culture, the debate over slavery, and the coming of the Civil War.
Wells shows that the growth of the periodical press after 1820 helped build a cultural bridge between the North and the South, and the emerging southern middle class seized upon northern middle-class ideas about gender roles and reform, politics, and the virtues of modernization. Even as it sought to emulate northern progress, however, the southern middle class never abandoned its attachment to slavery. By the 1850s, Wells argues, the prospect of industrial slavery in the South threatened northern capital and labor, causing sectional relations to shift from cooperative to competitive. Rather than simply pitting a backward, slave-labor, agrarian South against a progressive, free-labor, industrial North, Wells argues that the Civil War reflected a more complex interplay of economic and cultural values.

About Author
Jonathan Daniel Wells is associate professor of history and chair of arts and sciences at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Reviews
"In this pathbreaking study of the antebellum South, Jonathan Wells recovers that which most historians have presumed did not exist--the foundational elements of a middle class. Introducing us to previously neglected storekeepers, bankers, teachers, doctors, ministers and their families, he brings to the fore middling southerners whose shared interests and values were fundamentally different from those of the planter elite and the rural yeomanry and urban laborers. Promoting educational reform, organizing commercial conventions, and leading benevolent institutions, debating societies, and lyceums, these residents of small towns and larger cities played a considerable role in shaping the trajectory of Southern public life. In Wells's reckoning, the 'Old' South is replaced by a 'New' South that prepares the ground for its post-Civil War successor."--Mary Kelley, University of Michigan

"With cogency and learning, Wells has made a powerful case that the origins of southern bourgeois society can be located not in the postwar New South, but in the midst of the antebellum slave South. His claim will be controversial, but his book will enrich our understandings and change our thinking."--Michael O'Brien, University of Cambridge

"The great strength of Wells's account of the origins of southern middle class is his judicious balance between structure and volition. As a social historian, he finds identity to have been socially constructed, and as a student of ideas and consciousness he appreciates the uniqueness of individual choices by men and women whose diaries and letters he has read with sensitivity and sympathy. Readers will appreciate the complementarity of culture and experience in his crafting of this book."--Robert M. Calhoon, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

"Jonathan Wells's fine new study greatly complicates and enriches our understanding of the slaveholders' South. By moving outside the familiar triad of aristocratic planters, enslaved blacks, and poor yeomen, Wells calls into question the conventional wisdom about Southern ideology, social development, and politics before the Civil War. His book is challenging and essential reading for anyone interested in Southern history--and why the war came."--Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Prologue- The Symbolism of National Unity: The New England Society of Charleston
Introduction
Part I- Cradle of the Southern Middle Class: Cultural Connections between the Antebellum North and South
Chapter 1- Travel and Migration between the North and the South
Chapter 2- Southern Interest in Northern Intellectual Culture
Part II- The Making of the Southern Middle Class
Chapter 3- Religion, Dueling, and Honor
Chapter 4- Voluntary Associations and Intellectual Culture
Chapter 5- Women, Families, and Gender Roles
Chapter 6- Education Reform
Part III- The American Middle Classes and the Crisis of the Union
Chapter 7- The Origins of a New South
Chapter 8- The Formation of the Southern Middle Class
Chapter 9- The Northern and Southern Middle Classes and the Coming of the Civil War
Conclusion- The New South and the Triumph of the Middle Class
Epilogue- The New England Society and the New South Creed
Appendix- Commercial and Professional Occupations Based on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Census Categories
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Tables
1- Periodical Subscriptions Delivered to the Stagville, North Carolina, Post Office, August 1831
2- Origin of Newspapers Received at the Montgomery County, Alabama, Post Office, September 1857
3- Origin of Magazines Received at the Montgomery County, Alabama, Post Office, September 1857
4- Urban Population in the South, 1840-1860
5- Foreign-born Population in the South, 1850-1860
6- Increase in Capital of Southern Manufacturing Establishments, 1850-1860
7- Increase in Value of Southern Manufacturing Products, 1850-1860
8- Number of Schools and Number of Students Attending School in the South, 1850-1860
9- Growth in the Number of Southern Newspapers and Their Circulation, 1850-1860
Illustrations
Advertisements for North-South mail lines
Cover of Harper's New Monthly Magazine
Cover of De Bow's Review
Notice of a lecture on ancient Egypt
Pamphlet presenting an address to the literary societies of the University of North Carolina
Cover of the Ladies' Pearl
Cover of the National Magazine
Advertisements for southern businesses
Pamphlet from the first meeting of the South-Carolina Institute
Advertisement for shipping rates between the North and the South