The Journal of Southern Religion recently interviewed Joshua Rothman about his new book, Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson. Rothman is an associate professor of history and director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South at the University of Alabama and is best known for his first book, Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787-1861 (2003).
Rothman describes his new book as “a study of America’s southwestern frontier during the economic boom of the 1830s known as the ‘flush times.’ I am closely examining a series of gambling riots and slave insurrection scares, using them a lens through which to understand the social, cultural, and political implications of expansion and speculative capitalism in the antebellum United States.”
One thought on “Interview with Joshua Rothman about Flush Times and Fever Dreams”
Thanks, Mark, for alerting me to Rothman’s new book. My students read his 2008 corresponding article, “Hazards of the Flush Times: Gambling, Mob Violence, and the Anxieties of America’s Market Revolution,” in JAH.
We use the article to set up a class debate. In preparation, students read the article and two newspaper accounts: one supporting Vicksburg (Vicksburg Register, July 1835) and one against Vicksburg (because we live in Philadelphia: Philadelphia Commercial Herald, July 1835).
I divide the students into 3 groups: 1) supporting Vicksburg, 2) against Vicksburg, and 3) congressional moderators. The moderators are supposed to help groups 1) and 2) find a middle ground.
In my experience, they all seem to get into their corresponding roles and the moderators have yet to succeed. Like nothing else has, this exercise demonstrates to my students the emerging political/sectional divisions in the antebellum nation. Without any prompting from me, they review the Constitution for guidance (surprise, surprise, it can be interpreted multiple ways!), trying to make their various cases.
We have this “Flush Times: Gambling” debate early in the semester. It’s a testing ground for a more complicated debate at the end of the semester over Reconstruction following the Civil War. Debates make for wonderful teaching tools, and Rothman’s work provides a great prompt.