Class and Slavery

Jonathan Daniel Wells

in The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227990
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Class and Slavery

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  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery


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This article reviews scholarship on class and slavery. The evolution of the historiography on class and slavery is complex, and historians have only recently begun to revisit some of their basic assumptions about class formation, class ideology, and the social structure of the Old South more broadly. New studies raise questions about the ways in which human bondage and class intertwined in slave societies, particularly the American South, and have initiated a discernible shift in the field. While scholars profitably continue to study the plantation and the lives of masters and slaves, many historians now call for a wider view of southern society to take account of life in the region outside the plantation, and the various ways in which different classes of whites interacted with, and were shaped by, the institution of slavery. It is with these new calls that the subject of class is enjoying resurgence.

Keywords: class formation; class ideology; social structure; Old South; American South; historiography; southern society

Article.  10058 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History ; Slavery and Abolition of Slavery

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