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The Fragile Fabric of Union

Cotton, Federal Politics, and the Global Origins of the Civil War

Brian Schoen

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Winner, 2010 Bennett H. Wall Award, Southern Historical Association

In this fresh study Brian Schoen views the Deep South and its cotton industry from a global perspective, revisiting old assumptions and providing new insights into the region, the political history of the United States, and the causes of the Civil War.

Schoen takes a unique and broad approach. Rather than seeing the Deep South and its planters as isolated from larger intellectual, economic, and political developments, he places the region firmly within them. In doing so, he demonstrates that the region’s prominence within the…

Winner, 2010 Bennett H. Wall Award, Southern Historical Association

In this fresh study Brian Schoen views the Deep South and its cotton industry from a global perspective, revisiting old assumptions and providing new insights into the region, the political history of the United States, and the causes of the Civil War.

Schoen takes a unique and broad approach. Rather than seeing the Deep South and its planters as isolated from larger intellectual, economic, and political developments, he places the region firmly within them. In doing so, he demonstrates that the region’s prominence within the modern world—and not its opposition to it—indelibly shaped Southern history.

The place of "King Cotton" in the sectional thinking and budding nationalism of the Lower South seems obvious enough, but Schoen reexamines the ever-shifting landscape of international trade from the 1780s through the eve of the Civil War. He argues that the Southern cotton trade was essential to the European economy, seemingly worth any price for Europeans to protect and maintain, and something to defend aggressively in the halls of Congress. This powerful association gave the Deep South the confidence to ultimately secede from the Union.

By integrating the history of the region with global events, Schoen reveals how white farmers, planters, and merchants created a "Cotton South," preserved its profitability for many years, and ensured its dominance in the international raw cotton markets. The story he tells reveals the opportunities and costs of cotton production for the Lower South and the United States.

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The Fragile Fabric of Union

Brian Schoen

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Reviews

Reviews

Schoen has written an immensely important history of southern political economy, one that is destined to be prominent in future studies of the Old South.

Schoen's chronological approach in five chapter develops his arguments and does a masterful job of keeping the focus on cotton, its politics, its exploitation of slaves, and ultimately the self-delusions of the cotton states vis-à-vis the world... An excellent book on all counts. Highly recommended.

A sophisticated, nuanced analysis of elite political-economic rhetoric in the antebellum South.

In sure-footed fashion, Brian Schoen guides the reader through overlooked issues in the oft-told account of southern secession.

Students of the causes of the Civil War should read The Fragile Fabric of Union. It is well written and extensively documented... The author brings the issues to life by illustrating how economic self interested colored the views of the South to the point that it was willing to sunder the Union and go to war.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
384
ISBN
9781421404042
Illustration Description
9 halftones
Table of Contents

Series Editor's Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Prologue, 178
1. The Threads of a Global Loom: Cotton, Slavery, and Union in an Interdependent Atlantic, 1789–1820
Cotton, Empire, and Nation
The

Series Editor's Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Prologue, 178
1. The Threads of a Global Loom: Cotton, Slavery, and Union in an Interdependent Atlantic, 1789–1820
Cotton, Empire, and Nation
The Formation of a Transatlantic Cotton Interest
Cotton's "Revolution" and Its Limits
2. Calculating the Cost of Union: Nationalism and Sectionalism in a Republican Era, 1796–1818
The Cotton South and a Republican Coalition of "Equals"
"The Honor of Bearing It Best": Cotton, Commercial Warfare, and War
Peace Abroad, Dissension at Home: Republicans Active and Passive
3. Protecting Slavery and Free Trade: The Political Economy of Cotton, 1818– 1833
Panic and Protection
Cotton and a Harmonious Domestic and International Division of Labor
"Unequal" Protection under the Law and Cotton's Minority Status
4. Building Bridges to the West and the World: Empowerment and Anxiety in the Second Party System, 1834–1848
Publishing the "Banns" of Marriage: The Search for Lower South Commercial Advancement
American Proslavery Thought in the Age of British Abolition
The Second Party System in the Cotton South
5. An Unnatural Union: King Cotton and Lower South Secession, 1849– 1860
Economic Advancement in an Age of Democratic Ascendance
Converting Friends to Enemies and Enemies to Friends: The Search for Natural Allies
Realists Decide: Election and Secession
Epilogue, 1861
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio
Resources

Additional Resources