Unredeemed Land

RHN 176/2018 | Publication

Erin Stewart Mauldin, Unredeemed Land. An Environmental History of Civil War and Emancipation in the Cotton South, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018.

An innovative reconsideration of the Civil War's profound impact on southern history, Unredeemed Land traces the environmental constraints that shaped the rural South's transition to capitalism during the late nineteenth century. Dixie's "King Cotton" required extensive land use techniques across large swaths of acreage, fresh soil, and slave-based agriculture in order to remain profitable. But wartime destruction and the rise of the contract labor system closed off those possibilities and necessitated increasingly intensive methods of cultivation that worked against the environment. The resulting disconnect between farmers' use of the land and what the natural environment could support intensified the economic dislocation of freed people, poor farmers, and sharecroppers. The first environmental history to bridge the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods, Unredeemed Land powerfully examines the ways military conflict and emancipation left enduring ecological legacies.

Source: Oxford University Press