As investors, settlers, slaves, brigands, and fortune-hunters converged in what was then America’s Southwest, they created a tumultuous landscape that promised boundless opportunity and spectacular wealth. Predicated on ruthless competition, unsustainable debt, brutal exploitation, and speculative financial practices that looked a lot like gambling, this landscape also produced such profound disillusionment and conflict that it contained the seeds of its own potential destruction. Rothman sheds light on the intertwining of slavery and capitalism in the period leading up to the Panic of 1837, highlighting the deeply American impulses underpinning the evolution of the slave South and the dizzying yet unstable frenzy wrought by economic flush times. It is a story with lessons for our own day.
Published in association with the Library Company of Philadelphia’s Program in African American History. A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication. About the Author
Joshua D. Rothman is an associate professor of history at the University of Alabama and director of the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South. He is the author of Notorious in the neighborhood: Sex and Families across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787–1861 and editor of Reforming America, 1815–1860: A Norton Documents Reader.
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