Making a Slave State

Political Development in Early South Carolina

By Ryan A. Quintana

254 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 3 halftones, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4222-2
    Published: April 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4106-5
    Published: April 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4107-2
    Published: March 2018

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How is the state produced? In what ways did enslaved African Americans shape modern governing practices? Ryan A. Quintana provocatively answers these questions by focusing on the everyday production of South Carolina’s state space—its roads and canals, borders and boundaries, public buildings and military fortifications. Beginning in the early eighteenth century and moving through the post–War of 1812 internal improvements boom, Quintana highlights the surprising ways enslaved men and women sat at the center of South Carolina’s earliest political development, materially producing the state’s infrastructure and early governing practices, while also challenging and reshaping both through their day-to-day movements, from the mundane to the rebellious. Focusing on slaves’ lives and labors, Quintana illuminates how black South Carolinians not only created the early state but also established their own extralegal economic sites, social and cultural havens, and independent communities along South Carolina’s roads, rivers, and canals.

Combining social history, the study of American politics, and critical geography, Quintana reframes our ideas of early American political development, illuminates the material production of space, and reveals the central role of slaves’ daily movements (for their owners and themselves) to the development of the modern state.

About the Author

Ryan A. Quintana is associate professor of history at Wellesley College.
For more information about Ryan A. Quintana, visit the Author Page.


“More than other books I’ve seen, Quintana’s Making a Slave State makes the social history of enslaved people central to the processes of state building and the political economy of capitalism. Indeed, the book’s great value is its recognition of enslaved people as crucial historical actors whose everyday lives created the infrastructures of the state.”--Seth Rockman, Brown University

"This book will change the way that we understand the historical relationship between slavery, law, and the state. Written beautifully and impeccably researched, Making a Slave State puts to bed the myth that slavery and modernity were fundamentally opposed. Rather, Quintana's innovative focus on space reveals how slaves played a central role in building the modern state."--Gautham Rao, American University