Cover image for Conflict and compromise : the political economy of slavery, emancipation, and the American Civil War
Conflict and compromise : the political economy of slavery, emancipation, and the American Civil War
Ransom, Roger L., 1938-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
xv, 317 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E441 .R3 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



No series of events had a more dramatic impact on the course of American history than the Civil War and the emancipation of four million slaves. This book examines the economic and political factors that led to the attempt by Southerners to dissolve the Union in 1860 and the equally determined effort of Northerners to preserve it. A central thesis of the book is that slavery not only "caused" the Civil War by producing tensions that could not be resolved by compromise; the slave system also played a crucial role in the outcome of the war by crippling the Southern war effort at the same time that emancipation became a unifying cause for the North. The author looks at a century of sectional conflict over slavery and reveals a great irony of the American Civil War. The South suffered a bitter defeat in a war to protect the institution of slavery, even though it is likely that the Constitution of the United States offered the best protection for a slave system. And, despite the abolition of slavery in the United States, equality for Black Americans remained a distant dream.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In his detailed examination of the political and economic factors that brought about the secession crisis, economist-turned-historian Ransom places the institution of slavery squarely at center stage. To Ransom, slavery not only ``caused'' the Civil War, it also determined its outcome by crippling the Confederate war effort. An irony, of sorts, characterized the long sectional conflict over slavery. The North, as Ransom describes it, fought a costly war to abolish slavery even as most northerners had little interest in emancipating the slaves. The South failed in a devastating war to protect its peculiar institution even as the 1860 U.S Constitution offered it the best protection for a slave system. Ransom's work, somewhat cumbersome in places, still makes for interesting reading. Recommended for colleges and universities with upper-division courses in the South and the Civil War.-- Jason H. Silverman, Winthrop Coll., Rock Hill, S.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Ransom, a major figure in the study of the cliometrics of New South sharecropping and tenant farming systems, here draws on his own primary research into the political economy of slavery, freeholding, and antebellum small industries. He also makes use of secondary sources and family ethnography provided by modern social history. The result is an image of an irrepressible conflict, an inevitable fight between a southern way of life and a northern way of life; both "ways" begin as economics but become much more. With a deft twist of the ironist's hand, Ransom also demonstrates that the southern antebellum life style was possible only in the very union attacked by the most militant defenders of the "peculiar institution" of the region but that "the presence of slavery in the United States represented a contradiction that eventually could only be removed by armed conflict." None of Ransom's conclusions is unique, and no single component of Conflict and Compromise is really new; but the sum of all these parts is brilliant. Useful, in different ways, for any level of student. J. Roper Emory and Henry College

Table of Contents

List of tables and illustrations
1 Historical puzzles
2 Slavery and freedom
3 The economics of slavery
4 The politics of slavery
5 The politics of compromise
6 Slavery and the war
7 The impact of emancipation
8 After the war