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Railroads in the Old South

, 288 pages

7 halftones, 12 line drawings

March 2009
List price:$58.00
Sale price:$20.00
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Railroads in the Old South

Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society

Aaron W. Marrs challenges the accepted understanding of economic and industrial growth in antebellum America with this original study of the history of the railroad in the Old South.

Drawing from both familiar and overlooked sources, such as the personal diaries of Southern travelers, papers and letters from civil engineers, corporate records, and contemporary newspaper accounts, Marrs skillfully expands on the conventional business histories that have characterized scholarship in this field. He situates railroads in the fullness of antebellum life, examining how slavery, technology, labor, social convention, and the environment shaped their evolution.

Far from seeing the Old South as backward and premodern, Marrs finds evidence of urban life, industry, and entrepreneurship throughout the region. But these signs of progress existed alongside efforts to preserve traditional ways of life. Railroads exemplified Southerners' pursuit of progress on their own terms: developing modern transportation while retaining a conservative social order.

Railroads in the Old South demonstrates that a simple approach to the Old South fails to do justice to its complexity and contradictions.

Aaron W. Marrs received his Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina and was associate managing editor of South Carolina Encyclopedia. He now serves in the Office of the Historian, United States Department of State.

"Interesting regional history... It is a thoughtful and instructive study that examines not only the pervasiveness of transportation but also some of the social, political, and economic consequences associated with the evolution of southern railroads."

"This well-researched and readable volume is the best single study of railroads in the South before the Civil War. It should be of interest to historians as well as the general public."

"Marrs has given Civil War scholars some critical issues to consider when they evaluate the conflict's impact on railroads and the railroad's impact on the conflict."

"Marrs’s conclusions concerning slave labor deserve a wide reading and general approbation."

"A useful, important, and timely book for southern and business history... Marrs has produced the most detailed account of the South's experience with railroads and has uncovered more aspects of this transformation than any previous scholar."

" Railroads in the Old South is a solid contribution to our understanding of the birth of American railroading. There is much that is fresh and fascinating in each chapter... This book should be of interest to every serious student of railroad history, and even casual readers will find the text accessible and informative."

"Artfully written and rewarding... This book is a winning accomplishment that deserves a wide audience."

"Readers will find Railroads in the Old South an informative and lively social history."

"An important study of antebellum railroads in the American South."

"Marrs's broad perspective and eye for detail have produced an outstanding overview of not just the Southern but the American experience with railroads during the antebellum era. Anyone interested in the history of railroads, technology, or the South will find this volume worthwhile."

"Thoroughly researched and well written."

"Informative and well-organized."

"Informative and convincing."

"Accessible and appealing to a broad audience interested in southern history and railroad history... One would be hard-pressed to come up with a more intelligent and satisfying treatment of the subject than Railroads in the Old South."

"The time is right to bring the South into the story of the economic transformation of antebellum America. Aaron Marrs does this with force and grace in Railroads in the Old South."

"I am hard pressed to think of another volume that better catches the overall effect railroads had on the Old South."

"Independently of whether the reader is a business historian, a cultural historian, an economic historian, or a historian of technology, it is certainly worth reading the book."

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