Paper written for the completion of “U.S. History, Colonies to Present,” my major field with Laura F. Edwards.
Why study the South? This is a common question faced by historians of the United States South venturing to conferences other than the Southern Historical Association’s annual meeting. It immediately puts us on the defensive, categorizes the region as its own parochial subfield, and implies that Southern History is not American History. If that question’s premises were extended to their logical ends, the South becomes its own vacuum-sealed world, a hermetic bizarro-land that politicians, entrepreneurs, and reformers throughout the centuries have tried to bring more into line with the rest of the nation in terms of economic development, civil rights, and social justice. Continue reading