History 233 Reading Guide

Southern Economy And The Plantation System

  • Eugene D. Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "The Slave Economies in Political Perspective," Journal of American History 66.1 (1979), 7-23.   JSTOR


  • Note:  Gene Genovese delivered this essay as his presidential address to the Organization of American Historians in 1979.  Addressed to scholars rather than a general audience, the authors do not define their theoretical or economic terms, they assume a basic knowledge of the historical context of other slave societies, and their discussion of the various slave agricultural economies in the United states is more implicitly than explicitly detailed and differentiated.  For our purposes, the article sets out many of the topics that we will consider in the class and offers one interpretation of the intersection of slavery as an economic system, a social system, a status system, and a racial system.
  • What question frames their examination?  What answer (thesis) do they propose?
  • How do they describe the development of the slave economy of the American south from the eighteenth century through the antebellum period?
  • How did southern slaveholders view that economy, in political and social terms?
  • What were the structural weaknesses of the slave economy, and what were the implications of those weaknesses for the south and for the nation as a whole?