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Department 1

Civil War Institute

Department 2



In a 1975 article on the place of yeomen farmers in a slave society, Eugene D. Genovese identified a critical question concerning the nature of the Old South. The issue, he wrote, is to explain “the degree of class collaboration and social unity” that existed among all whites, which to Genovese appeared “all the more impressive in the face of so many internal strains.” Although some critics mistakenly charged that Genovese argued for non-slaveholder passivity in the face of planter hegemony, he was, in actuality, acknowledging that class relations were permeated with tension and discord, causing bitter resentments that occasionally flared into conflict among white folks. Yet Genovese never found evidence of a populist insurgency against slaveholder authority, a struggle in which the very basis of power was contested. He suggested— what scholars such as Steven Hahn, Lacy Ford, and Stephanie McCurry have more recently developed with amazing sophistication—that an intricate web of political, economic, and cultural relations bound whites together through shared material and ideological interests imbedded in human bondage. [excerpt]



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