The arrival of the first steamboat, the New Orleans, in early 1812 touched off an economic revolution in the South. In states west of the Appalachian Mountains, running steamboats quickly grew into a booming business that would lead to new cultural practices and a stronger sectional identity.
In Steamboats and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom, Robert Gudmestad examines the wide-ranging influence of steamboats on the southern economy. From carrying cash crops to market, to contributing to slave productivity, increasing the flexibility of labor, and connecting southerners to overlapping orbits of regional, national, and international markets, steamboats not only benefitted slaveholders and northern industries, but also affected cotton production.
This technology literally put people into motion, and travelers developed an array of unique cultural practices, from gambling to boat races. Gudmestad also asserts that the intersection of these riverboats and the environment reveals much about sectional identity in antebellum America. As federal funds backed railroad construction instead of clearing waterways for steamboats, southerners looked to coordinate their own economic development, free of national interests.
Steamboats and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom offers new insights into the remarkable and significant history of transportation and commerce in the prewar South.
"This thoroughly researched, well-written book expertly explains steamboats' role in the economic, social, political, and enviromental changes that created and transformed the cotton kingdom." (Michael Allen, author of The Confederation Congress and the Creation of the American Trans-Appalachian Settlement Policy)
"Packed with fresh insights into the Old South, this important book sheds light on the integral role that the steamboat played in making the cottom kingdom and connecting the interior South to the rest of the world." (Frank Towers, author of The Urban South and the Coming of the Civil War)
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Rollin on the River
Very informative and engaging
I learned a great deal and was introduced to life in the Antebellum South in the years prior to the Civil War. It was obvious Gudmestad had spent a tremendous amount of time in research in order to gather all the stories, newspaper articles, and data to write this book. His weaving of facts with detailed storied accounts from the people of the day was engaging and motivated me to listen on.
This book is so much richer than an academic description of steamboats in the early 1800s. Rather than a dry textbook, this audiobook transported me back to that age and allowed me to experience the sights, sounds, smells, hopes, dreams, and stark realities of the Antebellum South.
Good steady voice which was easy to follow.
- Jim Jones, CFA