American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia Reissue Edition, Kindle Edition
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― J.H. Plumb, New York Review of Books --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
Edmund Sears Morgan (1916-2013), an eminent authority on early American history, was Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, where he taught from 1955 to 1986.
Lloyd James (a.k.a. Sean Pratt) has been narrating since 1996 and has recorded over six hundred audiobooks. He is a seven-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award and has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award. His critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr. and Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, among others.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
- ASIN : B00CHH2G8S
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition (October 17, 2003)
- Publication date : October 17, 2003
- Language : English
- File size : 3390 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 466 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #210,522 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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As I was anxiously trying to get to the “American Slavery” part of the book, I first had to wade through a detailed history of how Virginia was formed. It would take 250 pages to get to Bacon’s Rebellion which included slaves (though very few and not prominently mentioned) and it would take another 47 pages to get to any significant mention of slaves and slavery.
I would say that the last 50 pages of text (before footnotes and bibliography) were the most interesting and captivating to me. Edmund Morgan finally got to the significance of slavery and how it was essential for the formation to the Republic of the United States. He mentions some very nuanced matters dealing with slavery and racism that are not easily perceived or understood. I just wonder if he needed such a lengthy book to make the point he made.
Often as we teach our history courses our students will invariably answer the question about why people came to the colonies with the statement, "People wanted to be free." Yet, we know from the records that most people who came to Virginia were anything but free. The facts are there and have always been there proving this, yet few speak about it because it conflicts with American heritage. Morgan shattered that illusion in this book. He showed that colonial Virginia was the exact opposite of freedom and that many people in the 17th century were forced to go there. In addition he showed how thousands of people died in Virginia from various causes during the first half of the century.
He also investigated the role of class in colonial Virginia and how those in power sought to use the colonial government to retain that power for themselves and similar people. At times this ran contrary to what the English monarchs wanted in their colonies, but the upper class of Virginia managed to overcome obstacles and stay in power. Morgan did this by examining the records of the colony including the laws as they were enacted. He found that many laws were designed to help those with money at the expense of those without. He also found where the laws changed and became race conscious which he interpreted as the sign that the upper class was making a clear distinction between white and black in order to create the classic Us vs. Them division. This division would be the racist wedge used to keep poor whites of the lower class from associating with the blacks of any class and to reinforce the status of slavery on all blacks.
This book won the Francis Parkman award and is regarded as an American history classic. One of the great things about Morgan was that his writing was wonderful and academic at the same time. Notes are given to the reader on each page via footnotes and reveal the great depth of research that Morgan used to develop this topic. It is a must read even today for anyone studying the history of Virginia. It is also a wonderful example of what a history book should be in its style and literary quality. Morgan's appendix does make one wonder what would have happened had he developed a quantification theory to go with his topic. The data results would probably have reinforced his conclusion. The appendix is an early use of that type of approach and shows that Morgan's conclusion would have been validated by quantification.
All in all this book is a must read for any scholar of Virginia, colonial America, or slavery. Reading it will help the student develop a deeper contextual feeling for how colonial Virginia developed and a greater understanding as to why certain things in this country came about. The theme of racism has been existent in America for centuries and Morgan showed us exactly why that was. This book is a must have in my collection and many others for its high quality of research.
This book is well-written and has a nice flow.
I have read countless books on the topic of slavery throughout the years. This book really does not focus on the subject matter of slavery in and of itself. "American Slavery, American Freedom," shows the progression and the events that led to Virginia becoming a Commonwealth. Slavery and servitude was an inhumane part of Virginia's history. The idea behind this book was a welcoming change because many books that I have read on the topic of slavery do not provide a detailed and compelling backstory.
The author seemed to denounce or downplay that Thomas Jefferson fathered many children by a slave named Sally Hemmings. This book was published in 1975 and the author probably had been working on it for years before its final release. Edmund Morgan may not have wanted to include any "touchy" subject matter in the book.
"American Slavery, American Freedom," by Edmund Morgan is a great book to read. I would recommend others make the purchase.
point - the title seems in the wrong order - it does eventually get to the long-hidden historical nugget: American slavery
and racism are the result of the greed and inhumanity of fewer than one percent of US. We still live with the consequences
of our flawed founding and will never fulfill our lofty promises unless we finally face those facts.
Top reviews from other countries
The central theme of the book is the apparent paradox between the high level of freedom enjoyed by some in the colony and the servitude and slavery endured by many others. Other topics include the relationship between the colonisers and the Native Americans, the tobacco economy (quite literaly - the currency of Virginia for a good deal of the period is in pounds of tobacco), and the relationship between the colony and the imperial power and its presence in Virginia in the form of the colonies Governor.
ES Morgan writes well, and is able to switch between analyis of the situation and narrative history when required, for example when describing Bacons rebellion of the 1660's. Only one part of the book jarred for this reader, the chapter "Idle Indian and Lazy Englishman" which appears to have been contracted out to be written by a member of the Institute of Directors. Perhaps the author is just putting the view of the plantation owners across, but it does seem to be an example of what E.P.Thompson reffered to as the "condecension of posterity".
Otherwise an excellent read, in the space of 400 or so pages it covers colonial Virginian society in detail with plenty of coherent and thoughtful analysis. I wouldnt hesitate to recommend this to anyone interested in American history.