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Carolina's Golden Fields

Carolina's Golden Fields
Inland Rice Cultivation in the South Carolina Lowcountry, 1670–1860


Part of Cambridge Studies on the American South

  • Publication planned for: October 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from October 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108423403

£ 39.99

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About the Authors
  • This book examines the environmental and technological complexity of South Carolina inland rice plantations from their inception at the turn of the seventeenth century to the brink of their institutional collapse at the eve of the Civil War. Inland rice cultivation provided a foundation for the South Carolina colonial plantation complex and enabled planters' participation in the Atlantic economy, dependence on enslaved labor, and dramatic alteration of the natural landscape. Moreover, the growing population of enslaved Africans led to a diversely-acculturated landscape unique to the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Despite this significance, Lowcountry inland rice cultivation has had an elusive history. Unlike many historical interpretations that categorize inland rice cultivation in a universal and simplistic manner, this study explains how agricultural systems varied among plantations. By focusing on planters' and slaves' alteration of the inland topography, this book emphasizes how agricultural methods met the demands of the local environment.

    • Proposes a new interpretation of South Carolina Lowcountry and South Atlantic history to help readers better understand the development and evolution of the plantation complex
    • Documents the close connection between environment, technology, and culture
    • Provides resources for readers to understand larger historical issues, such as environmental change, the political economy, and cultural contributions
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Carolina's Golden Fields recovers from obscurity a history of inland rice cultivation that has hitherto been depicted by historians merely as a primitive and early stage in the long history of rice agriculture in South Carolina. It decisively shows instead that planters grew inland rice continuously as part of a complex of crop choices, and grew it in ways that ingeniously made the most of local environments. This study also demonstrates just how much can be recovered and learned when the analytical tools of environmental history are applied to the history of agriculture.' Mart Stewart, Western Washington University

    'To cultivate South Carolina's great staple crop, colonists and slaves moved earth and water, reshaping the landscapes of the coastal Lowcountry. Smith reconstructs this world of adaptation with persuasive case studies. For more than 150 years, planters forced slaves to remake the freshwater swamps to keep them productive. This book demonstrates that early Carolina was no sleepy backwater, but rather a dynamic place linked to a larger Atlantic economy that rewarded technological innovation. Full of new insights derived from environmental science, Carolina's Golden Fields offers a rigorous new picture of plantation agriculture.' S. Max Edelson, University of Virginia

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: October 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108423403
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • availability: Not yet published - available from October 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: in land of cypress and pine
    2. Simple reserves: early development of inland rice, 1670–1729
    3. The 'golden mines of Carolina': expansion of the inland complex, 1730–1783
    4. 'To depend altogether on reservoirs': upper Wando River rice cultivation, 1783–1860
    5. 'The rice fields which are sown have been partially flowed': water and labor management during the antebellum period
    6. Inland rice cultivation and the promise of agricultural reform
    7. Epilogue: forgotten fields.

  • Author

    Hayden R. Smith, College of Charleston, South Carolina
    Hayden R. Smith is Adjunct Professor of History at the College of Charleston, South Carolina.

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