Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South (Cambridge Studies on the American South)
Analyzing land policy, labor, and legal history, Keri Leigh Merritt reveals what happens to excess workers when a capitalist system is predicated on slave labor. With the rising global demand for cotton and thus, slaves in the 1840s and 1850s, the need for white laborers in the American South was drastically reduced, creating a large underclass who were unemployed or underemployed. These poor whites could not compete for jobs or living wages with profitable slave labor. Though impoverished whites were never subjected to the daily violence and degrading humiliations of racial slavery, they did suffer tangible socio economic consequences as a result of living in a slave society. Merritt examines how these 'masterless' men and women threatened the existing Southern hierarchy and ultimately helped push Southern slaveholders toward secession and civil war.***Winner of the 2018 Bennett H. Wall Award, from the Southern Historical Association, for the best book published in the previous two years on southern business or economic history.
***Winner of the 2018 President's Book Award, from the Social Science History Association, awarded annually to a first work by an early career scholar.
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