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Creating an Old South

Middle Florida's Plantation Frontier before the Civil War

By Edward E. Baptist

408 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 illus., 7 tables, 3 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5353-5
    Published: April 2002
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6003-8
    Published: April 2003

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Awards & distinctions

2003 Rembert Patrick Best Book in Florida History Award, Florida Historical Society

Set on the antebellum southern frontier, this book uses the history of two counties in Florida's panhandle to tell the story of the migrations, disruptions, and settlements that made the plantation South.

Soon after the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821, migrants from older southern states began settling the land that became Jackson and Leon Counties. Slaves, torn from family and community, were forced to carve plantations from the woods of Middle Florida, while planters and less wealthy white men battled over the social, political, and economic institutions of their new society.

Conflict between white men became full-scale crisis in the 1840s, but when sectional conflict seemed to threaten slavery, the whites of Middle Florida found common ground. In politics and everyday encounters, they enshrined the ideal of white male equality--and black inequality. To mask their painful memories of crisis, the planter elite told themselves that their society had been transplanted from older states without conflict. But this myth of an "Old," changeless South only papered over the struggles that transformed slave society in the course of its expansion. In fact, that myth continues to shroud from our view the plantation frontier, the very engine of conflict that had led to the myth's creation.

About the Author

Edward E. Baptist is Charlton W. Tebeau Assistant Professor of History at the University of Miami.
For more information about Edward E. Baptist, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Baptist . . . is the type of capable historian who can write about the detailed social aspects of a complex time while also placing the overall political scene into proper framework. . . . He has done a masterful job of presenting rare insight into a neglected area of antebellum studies and, really, a neglected area of Floridian history. . . . A superb account of Middle Florida."--North Florida News Daily

"Deeply researched and original . . . Challenges a priori history in general and basic assumptions about the development of the old southwest. . . . For all college and university collections."--Choice

"Baptist has rendered a provocative analysis that is likely to force a rethinking of the way the antebellum slave plantation system operated on the southern frontier. . . . This is a deeply researched and perceptively argued study that establishes Baptist as a fine scholar and a cogent writer. It has much to offer those interested in both the Old South and in Florida, Texas, and Arkansas. It should spur scholars on to fresh examinations of slavery on the frontier."--American Historical Review

"An exemplary local study. . . . This book wonderfully blends social and political history. . . . This fine book will work well in the classroom." --Journal of American History

"Students of the antebellum South who are interested in utilizing their sources in sophisticated ways and who wish to craft analytically strong narratives will be well advised to study the arguments, structure, and style of Baptist's book."--Journal of Southern History

"Uses small places to answer big questions. . . . [A] well-researched and gracefully written study."--Journal of the Early Republic