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The Peculiar Institution

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  227 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South analytically describes all facets of slavery in the south, from the 1600s thru the mid-19th century, including demographics, slave/slaveholder lives, southern economics, slave trading, political issues & northern & abolitionist responses. Stampp analyzes how some slave owners were kind to their chattel. So ...more
cloth, 436 pages
Published June 12th 1956 by Alfred A. Knopf (NY) (first published 1956)
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James
I was supposed to read this in college and didn't. My mistake. It is considered the definitive text on the subject and now I know why. Thorough, rigorous and deeply moving. Written back when academics could write lucid English prose. I never realized how much guilt the slave owners had. I always figured they just didn't know any better, but an entire culture performed tortuous intellectual gymnastics to make themselves feel okay about the 'thingification' of other humans. Someone on this site sa ...more
Czarny Pies
This is a very basic survey history of American slavery based on the assumption that a black man is simply as a white man with a different skin colour. In other words Stampp's presents slavery from the common-sense perspective.

Since its publication in 19 it has been criticized from all sides. A multitude of interpretations based on psychological, sociological, and Marxist models followed all of which quickly aged and became irrelevant. Stampp's book has stood the test of time better than those o
...more
Robert Merriwether
Excellent book. Kenneth Stampp's, "The Peculiar Institution" is considered a classic work on slavery and it is well-deserving of its reputation. The breadth of scholarship is impressive; Mr. Stampp makes judicious use of footnotes and does not allow the footnotes to become either intrusive to the flow of the text or distracting to the reader. I was very impressed with his source materials; his points and facts are aptly supported by original sources: diaries, letters, newspapers, journals and hi ...more
Daniel
In his work "The Peculiar Institution," Kenneth Stampp systematically investigates the structure of slavery within the larger society of the antebellum South. While sometimes considering the role of the master, the text primarily emphasizes the position of slaves themselves. In this respect Stampp methodically categorizes the principal components of the average bondsman's life, and discusses in detail the nature of these functions. Often including fascinating anecdotal evidence culled from a myr ...more
Brian Anton
In the book The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South, Kenneth M. Stampp provides deep insight into the institution of slavery. The book explores the negative impact of slavery on both whites and blacks in the Antebellum period and is largely about dispelling myths created by previous historians of the 1940’s and 1950’s who attempted to show that the African-American experience as slaves was not burdensome to them as it was to whites.

Stampp neatly organizes his argument that slav
...more
Ilya
When I took American History in college 20 years ago, the professor recommended this book; it is in fact really good. It is a short but comprehensive history of slavery in the antebellum Southern United States, drawing upon a large quantity of diaries, letters and other documents. About 40% of the population of these states, in 1860 less than a quarter in Tennessee but more than half in South Carolina, were slaves, which is to say humans reduced to the status of cattle, or chattel. Only about a ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 20, 2009 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: Mr. Faulhaber
Shelves: history
This was the first history of slavery in the USA which I ever read, it having been recommended in junior year American History at Maine South High School. The copy read was from the library.

The major social crises I was aware of while growing up were the Cold War, overpopulation, nuclear contamination, environmental destruction and domestic race and class relations. Under the rubric of the Cold War are included the various cases of aggression by our government against such countries as Cuba, the
...more
Kara
One of the reviews on the back calls it dispassionate and objective, and that about sums it up. Stampp knocks down all the pro-slavery arguments to demonstrate that slavery persisted because of the financial benefit to slave owners. For a book written almost 60 years ago, this holds up pretty well.

One glaring problem is Stampp's views on women in slavery. For the most part, he ignores them, unless he's discussing their supposed "promiscuity." Here's a quote from the chapter on the sexual relatio
...more
David Schaafsma
I was required by Leroy Stegink, my junior history teacher, to read this in high school, and while people cried too hard, boring, deadly dull, etc, I found it very good. I really liked it and learned a lot from it. I think it was not appropriate for most high school students, a scholarly text that college students read, but Stegink challenged us, had high standards, was a tough guy I liked in spite of his being somewhat authoritarian. But enough about me! This book turned out to be a classic, wi ...more
Bethany
This seems to be considered the defining work on American slavery, so for anyone interested in that topic, I would highly recommend this. It's incredibly comprehensive. Since it was published back in the '50s, I was a little worried that there would be like a nostalgia about the good ol' days - or that the tone would be somehow influenced by the craziness of the Civil Rights movement just getting underway at that time - but there was absolutely none of that. It could have been published this yea ...more
Dave Davison
You do not understand slavery until you've read this book.
Larry
A bit dry at first. I think I was expecting sorrow or outrage.
The author expresses his disapproval mainly in the form of sarcasm directed
at the hypocrisy of slave owners and pro-slavery advocates. Reminds
me a little of Mark Twain's comments on the subject, though he was
more outspoken.

It's mind-blowing that this was going on in this country only 150 years ago.
An object lesson in how monstrous evil can come to seem routine and
normal when people become habituated to it (abortion in our time comes
...more
John E
Excellent. This is the classic study of American slavery. Covers just about every aspect of the institution. It was economically great for the owners, but a disaster for the non-slave-owining whites and the slaves. Socially slavery caused a massive distortion of all relations among the people of the South; it perverted the ideals of the whites and replaced a higher African culture with a warped view of life for the black person. Anyway this should be a must read for all Americans.
Darlene
I minored in history in college, and saved some of the books that meant the most to me. This was one of them. Little did I know that 40 years later I'd be pulling it off the shelf for research purposes.
Tracy
Turning the world on its heels...this book was written during the Civil Rights movement. The author, had a different take on the history of Slavery in the South and it was so much more different than anything that had been published. He was trying to make people see that it wasn't inevitable that slavery happened...nor were slaves treated like family members...it was a cruel way to treat people. I really enjoyed reading it.
Fredrick Danysh
The author dissects slavery as it existed in the antebellum South. Several theories as to the reasons for slavery as an economic model are explored. as are the ways slaves were used and treated. Census data on slaves is addressed as are the different cultural groups involved. This was an interesting exploration of the subject.
Matt Giddings
One of the great books on slavery in the United States. Revolutionary when punlished, it argued for a near complete re-assessment of then current thinking about slavery and the slaves.
pjr8888
May 22, 2011 pjr8888 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to pjr8888 by: rev James Plough
i read this for my American History class at the Pontifical College Josephinum by Rev James Plough. he tried hard in his "ploughman" way to open us to thinking and questioning.
Matt


Good book. Some of the hypothesis seemed a bit of a stretch. But, this did give a very analytical view of slavery, both in social and scientific terms.
Caty
Oct 07, 2009 Caty marked it as to-read
NO IDEA WHERE THIS ONE IS EITHER. PROBABLY FOR THE BEST, HEAR IT'S RACIST SOCIAL DARWINISM...
Tyrone Everett
Be prepared to be educated by a book that was banned in the south until 1975!
Holly
For a purely factual book on slavery, it wasn't half bad.
Michelle
see A. P. History binder--slavery in the South
John
clear,informative history of slavery
Leah
Leah marked it as to-read
Jan 27, 2015
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  • Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War
  • Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South
  • Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War
  • The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South
  • The Road to Disunion: Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
  • The Strange Career of Jim Crow
  • Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation
  • American Slavery: 1619-1877
  • Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery
  • White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
  • Many Thousands Gone: First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
  • The Plantation Mistress
  • Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion
  • Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South
  • Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850
  • The Negro's Civil War
  • Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market
The Causes of the Civil War The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861

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