I’ve just completed selecting my books for the Southern U.S. History course that I’m teaching in the spring semester. This course is basically an Old South course, running chronologically from 1607-1860. I tried to select books that will give students brief overviews of important topics, as well different authorial perspectives.
Charles Dew, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (Univ. of Virginia Press, 2001)
Comment: Dew’s book is useful in understanding the coordinated effort undertaken by pro-secession politicians following Lincoln’s election.
Paul Escott et al., Major Problems in the History of the American South: Documents and Essays, Vol. 1, 2d. ed. (Wadsworth, 1999)
Comment: A useful compendium of primary sources and scholarly essays. I wish a new edition were available, though.
Eugene Genovese, A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South (Univ. of Georgia Press, 1998)
Comment: A book by an historian whose views my students likely would not encounter otherwise. Gets at the religious angle in an interesting way.
Anya Jabour, Scarlett’s Sisters: Young Women in the Old South (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2007)
Comment: I haven’t read this book, but the reviews were good, and I liked Jabour’s book on the Wirt marriage.
Betty Wood, The Origins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies (Hill & Wang, 1997)
Comment: Since some of my students have already read Winthrop Jordan’s The White Man’s Burden, I wanted to give them a different perspective.
In addition to these five books, I am also assigning two articles:
Edmund Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox.”
Comment: The most concise explanation of the Revolutionary Era’s paradoxical embrace of slavery and freedom.
C. Vann Woodward, “The Irony of Southern History.”
Comment: I had to include the essay that spawned my love of historical scholarship. It will be interesting to see how well the students think it holds up in light of its age.