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American Slavery: 1619-1877 Paperback – September 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0809016303 ISBN-10: 0809016303 Edition: Revised and Updated

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Revised and Updated edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809016303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809016303
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this readable synthesis of scholarship, University of Delaware history professor Kolchin takes a judicious view of historians' controversies surrounding this topic. Kolchin ( Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom ) offers a good narrative account of American slavery, but the book is most useful for his historiographical navigation. While some scholars have argued that slaves quickly abandoned African ways, and others maintain that slave culture was strongly African, Kolchin disputes this dichotomy, describing instead the development of a unique African American culture. Likewise, Kolchin sees the validity of studies that have focused on slaves as victims as well as more recent work emphasizing their resiliency. With perspective drawn from his research into the end of slavery in other countries, Kolchin stresses that Reconstruction, once seen by scholars as cruel to Southern whites and more recently as insufficiently revolutionary, was in fact "an extraordinary departure" that took control of the mechanics of emancipation away from the former masters.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

In a lively interpretive history, Kolchin (History/Univ. of Delaware) succinctly traces America's institution of slavery from its Colonial beginnings to the Reconstruction era. American slavery, Kolchin explains, didn't develop in isolation but evolved as part of a trend toward forced labor in the New World colonies, especially in the Caribbean and Brazil. In Colonial America, ``the initial demand for labor was precisely that--for labor--and was largely color-blind.'' Most forced laborers were indentured servants from Great Britain; although some slavery existed as early as the founding, in the early 17th century, of the Virginia colony, not until that century's close were Africans imported in large numbers as slaves. Kolchin reveals that, while the plantation slavery of what was to become the South developed distinctively (and primarily to cultivate tobacco and cotton), it had much in common with the plantation slavery of the Caribbean (where sugar was the primary crop). By about 1770, American slavery was concentrated mostly in the South, though it existed in all of the American colonies, and, as time passed, relationships between slaves and masters changed as second- generation slaves lost much of their African culture and became Americanized. In the US--in contrast to the Caribbean--slaves lived longer, developed considerable occupational diversity, and became acculturated, particularly in their absorption of Protestantism. The Revolutionary era saw slavery threatened by Enlightenment ideology, but the institution survived more strongly than ever in the South and, during the 19th century, came to be perceived as fundamental to the Southern economy and way of life. Kolchin writes about slave life through the Civil War, and, not surprisingly, he sees slavery as leaving a legacy that has persisted throughout our own century. A clear and briskly written survey that puts slavery in context and explains its continuing impact on American life. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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This is a must read for anyone interested in American History.
R. Albin
Kolchin further assists readers in that effort by providing a wonderful bibliographic essay at the end of his book.
Jeremy
I ordered this book and it came on time and in the condition listed.
doodlebug

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kolchin offers his book as a concise, readable synthesis of the movements in the historiography of slavery in the United States. Influenced by the movement toward social and cultural history, he devotes considerable attention to slave life in the antebellum south and the effects of the particular situation of slavery in the United States in shaping slave culture. Kolchin also situates slavery in the U.S. in the context of the world wide institution with comparisons to the Caribbean, Brazil, and to the Russian serfs which both highlights the unique situation of American Slaves and emphasizes that the institution of slavery did not exist in a vacuum.
The book progresses chronologically from the 1619 arrival of slaves in Jamestown to a brief discussion of the end of slavery and the problems of reconstruction, with thematic treatments of slave life, white control and paternalism in antebellum slavery as well as white society, economy, and ideology in the American south.
In producing such a smooth synthesis, Kolchin admittedly sacrifices a certain amount of detail and nuance for the sake of flow and clarity. Disconcerting, at times is his lack of documentation, another victim of simplicity in Kolchin's approach. While accomplishing his goal of remaining clear and readable, the reader sometimes wishes for some assistance in discerning the origin or fuller development of a particular position or point. To his credit, Kolchin works references to the historiography into his text well, and he provides an exceedingly thorough bibliographical essay at the end, which is probably the strongest segment of the work. Still, the lack of documentation sometimes proves frustrating and thus counters the goal of smooth flow in the text.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Over the past 50 years, the study of slavery has been one of the most dynamic and contentious areas in American History. A large volume of first-rate scholarship now exists on many aspects of North American slavery. This excellent book is a successful effort to synthesize the large volume of information on North American slavery. The book is organized chronologically, beginning with the Colonial period and progressing through the Revolution and the Antebellum period. Kolchin does an excellent job of describing the historical evolution of slavery in the USA. Another meritorious aspect is that Kolchin is an expert on the comparative history of slavery and provides useful comparative perspectives by comparing North American slavery with the features of other unfree societies. Kolchin is a clear writer and the book is very well organized. There is an excellent annotated bibliography which is a fine guide for readers interested in more specialized works on this topic. This is a must read for anyone interested in American History.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book presents a detailed,yet very informative and interesting history of
slavery in North America from the pre-Colonial period through
Reconstruction. The author discusses the beginnings, heyday, and end of
slavery from the point of view of both slaves and masters. Also presented
are the demographics, sectional viewpoints,and psychological impacts of
slavery. This concise treatment of a complex subject is very readable and
contains abundant references to other works on the subject. It is, however,
a "pure text" reference (i.e., no photos or figures), but there are some
statistical tables at the end of the book.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on December 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book succeeds as an overview of American Slavery. It portrays the progression of our "peculiar institution" from earliest colonial times up through Reconstruction. The Author focuses on the changing nature of the relationship between slave and master, the role of religion as both a tool and dilemma for the slave system (and as a primary cultural marker for slaves) and the evolving debate undergirding the defense of slavery and the unique nature of the Antibellum South.
The book also delves, sparringly, into slave life and experiences.
It is a little dry in places and the writing style at times reads like an academic journal. I would have preferred more anacdotes to buttress some of the claims made by the author, if nothing else to make the book more interesting. However, in many places he does make use of statistics to reinforce his conclusions, which adds weight to the arguments presented in the book.
Overall, a good overview and introduction to slavery as it existed in the United States
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you need a single volume work on American slavery, I can't think of a better choice. This is necessarily an overview of this fascinating subject, but the research is quite up to date, and pretty careful to show the range of scholarly opinions on some of the controversies that exist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Curmudgeon on September 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book does a pretty good job in summarizing American slavery in about 300 pages but falls short in the period from 1850 to the Civil War.

The book divides the history of American slavery into two periods: the Colonial Era which ended with the American Revolution and the Antebellum Era from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

While the first African slaves arrived in 1619, most of the nonfree labor for the sixteenth century was done by indentured servants (temporary slaves) from Europe. This source began drying up in the seventeenth century as economic conditions improved in Europe. The major use of nonfree labor then switched to African slaves.

The first area to use African slaves was the Upper South tobacco-growing states of Maryland, Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. Then came the Lower South rice-growing states of South Carolina, Georgia, and southeastern North Carolina.

After the American Revolution it seemed that slavery was starting to die out. The Northern states had banned slavery, the slave trade ended in 1808, and there was an increasing emphasis on liberty and equality because of the revolution. But the tremendous increase in the cotton trade in the nineteenth century ended all this. The focus of slavery then switched south to the Deep South cotton-growing states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and also west to Texas. All this of course came to an end in 1865 with the Civil War.

The one area the book does not cover is major developments such as the Missouri Compromise, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Dredd Scott decision during the era leading up to the Civil War. Otherwise, this book is a good review of the slave era.
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