Thesis: Economic Revolution in the American South

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¶ … Southern Economy: Century of Reconstruction

Today, there remains a sense of cultural and economic difference between North and South that is felt by many inhabitants on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. In some degree, the vestiges of divergent histories leading up to and following the American Civil War are still evident, especially in the educational, professional and economic disadvantages often associated with life in the South. The article by Gavin Wright, entitled "The Economic Revolution in the American South" chronicles the moment at which, the author contends, the South begin finally to move toward some measure of equality with the North. Writing in 1987 for The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Gavin uses this moment of so-called 'revolution' as a prompt to reflect on the historical patterns devising the stagnant economy that had strangled the south for a century.

The crux of the Wright study is that there are fundamental forces at play in the economic development of labor markets which were intervened upon by the cultural and political circumstances of the South. As the Industrial Revolution began to alter American populace distribution in the late 19th century, the South had been dramatically disrupted by the forced alteration of its labor approach and by the tumult that followed this change. Wright explains that there existed certain distinctions between North and South for many years based upon agricultural temperament, but that these differences would promote a wide array or more salient human concerns. The article indicates that sharp differences between North and South "were rooted in certain geo-agricultural continuities, such as familiarity with seeds, crops, livestock, and climate. This 'natural' regional separation was ratified and institutionalized by slavery, which served to insulate the South from outside labor flows after 1807, when importation of slaves ended. Then the region was consumed by the turbulence of war and Reconstruction at the very time when a truly national (non-Southern) labor market was developing elsewhere." (164)

Wright continues by noting that the realities of immigration played no small part in this… [END OF PREVIEW]

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