Synopses & Reviews
In this innovative study of the South Carolina Low Country, author Stephanie McCurry explores the place of the yeomanry in plantation society--the complex web of domestic and public relations within which they were enmeshed, and the contradictory politics of slave society by which that class of small farmers extracted the privileges of masterhood from the region's powerful planters. Insisting on the centrality of women as historical actors and gender as a category of analysis, this work shows how the fateful political choices made by the low-country yeomanry were rooted in the politics of the household, particularly in the customary relations of power male heads of independent households assumed over their dependents, whether slaves or free women and children. Such masterly prerogatives, practiced in the domestic sphere and redeemed in the public, explain the yeomanry's deep commitment to slavery and, ultimately, their ardent embrace of secession.
By placing the yeomanry in the center of the drama, McCurry offers a significant reinterpretation of this volatile society on the road to Civil War. Through careful and creative use of a wide variety of archival sources, she brings vividly to life the small worlds of yeoman households, and the larger world of the South Carolina Low Country, the plantation South, and nineteenth-century America.
"Masters of Small Worlds...is of interest not only for the local matter of South Carolina, but as one test of whether `race, class, and gender' can...make a history and not just a battlecry....McCurry offers an abundance of insight, information and anecdote. She is a gifted historian, engaging large questions."--The Times Literary Supplement
"...a well-researched and detailed study....Masters of Small Worlds is an extremely valuable work....a bold and convincing history...that will clearly be required reading for Southern historians, women's historians, and American social historians."--Southern Historian
"The subtlety and texture of her interpretations offer a model for future studies of this class elsewhere in the antebellum South."--American Historical Review
"Stephanie McCurry's superb study of antebellum South Carolina deserves a place on the shelves and reading lists of all historians of the South and the Civil War....This is one of the best books on Southern social history I have ever read. Sophisticated in technique and subtle in analysis, Masters of Small Worlds carries that analysis into politics to produce strikingly original insights that will have an impact on Southern historiography for years to come."--H-Net Book Review Project
"Masters of Small Worlds is a strikingly original work, one which manages to say important new things about subjects that have attracted the attention of generations of scholars--the foundations of proslavery thought and the road to the Civil War. It is difficult to think of a work of American history that more successfully integrates the "public" and "private" realms of life, or that demonstrates more persuasively the centrality of gender as a category for understanding American political thought."--Eric Foner, Professor of History, Columbia University
About the Author
is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.