Darcy R. Fryer
Yale University

The Origins of the Deep South

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Mitchell, and many other novelists have made the antebellum South familiar ground to most Americans. But how, and why, did antebellum society emerge? What happened in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana in the generations before they were covered by cotton plantations, manor houses, and slave quarters? In this course, we will examine the history of the lower South from the late seventeenth century until about 1815. We will read a wide variety of articles, monographs, and primary sources, tracing three main themes: the interaction of Anglo-Americans, African-Americans, and Native Americans; imperial and colonial leaders' efforts to shape their social and physical environment; and the emergence of the deep South as a distinctive American region. We will also consider how our knowledge of the colonial and revolutionary South complicates our understanding of Southern history in the antebellum era and the twentieth century.

Required Reading

The following books are available at the Yale Bookstore:

Joyce Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815 (1993)

Rachel Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760-1808 (1990)

Jane Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (1999)

James H. Merrell, The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (1989)

Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, & the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (1995)

Elise Pinckney, ed., The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762 (1997)

Daniel Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783 (1992)

Peter Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (1974)

Starred items (*) are in a readings packet available at York Copy. Both the packet and the assigned books are on reserve at CCL.


  • a primary sources survey (4-5pp.), due January 31
  • an individual conference with the instructor about the research paper topic (to be scheduled during the week of January 31- February 4)
  • a paper proposal (1-2pp.) and preliminary bibliography, due February 14
  • a historiographical essay surveying the secondary literature on your term paper topic (5-7pp.), due February 28
  • a class presentation of the semester's research (5 minutes + discussion) on April 3
  • a research paper of 15-20 pages, based on primary sources and secondary material, due May 9
  • active participation in class discussion and in the class e-mail group. You should contribute at least six responses to the e-mail group over the course of the semester, plus an additional response (comparable to a short response paper) for each week that you are absent.
  • Grading

    The research paper constitutes 1/2 of the final grade. The primary sources survey, historiographical essay, and class participation each constitute 1/6.

    Schedule of Readings and Assignments

    January 10: Overview

    a) overview of syllabus and explanation of first assignment

    b) map lecture and discussion

    January 17: Defining the South

    *Edward Ayers, article

    *John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina (1709), excerpt

    *John Martin Bolzius, "Reliable Answer to Some Submitted Questions Concerning the Land Carolina, In which Answer, However, Regard is Also Paid at the Same Time to the Condition of the Colony of Georgia" (c.1751)

    * Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1830s), excerpt

    January 24: The Planter Elite

    Pinckney, Letterbook, pp. ix-xxvi, 3-74, & skim the rest.

    Wood, Black Majority, pp. 3-91

    *Cynthia Kierner, "Hospitality, Sociability, and Gender in the Southern Colonies."

    **We will spend the second half of this meeting at SML, learning about tools for bibliographical research.

    January 31: Native Communities and the Indian Trade

    Merrell, Indians' New World, pp. 1-225

    **assignment due: Select a broad field of interest (e.g., religious revivals, slavery in colonial Louisiana, Indian wars) and locate at least five different primary sources that address this topic. Write a short essay (4-5pp.) in which you identify each source's author, content, and context (where, when, and why it was created) and reflect on the research opportunities they pose. What questions will these sources help you answer? What don't the sources tell you?

    **Individual meetings with the instructor will be scheduled this week.

    February 7: Slavery in the Lower South

    Wood, Black Majority, pp. 95-326

    February 14: Social Engineering and Political Culture

    *Jack P. Greene, "The Roles of the Lower Houses of Assembly in Eighteenth-Century Politics."

    *Robert Weir, "'The Harmony We Were Famous For': An Interpretation of Pre-revolutionary South Carolina Politics."

    *James Edward Oglethorpe, "Some Account of the Design. . . .", including introduction by Phinizy Spalding

    **assignment due: term paper proposal (1-2pp.) and preliminary bibliography

    February 21: Trade and Society in the Lower Mississippi Valley

    Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves

    *John Fitzpatrick, Letterbook, selections (1768-90)

    February 28: Slavery, Race, and Community in Spanish Florida

    Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida, pp. 1-106, 229-253.

    **assignment due: historiographical essay (5-7pp.)

    March 20: The Rise of the Backcountry

    Klein, Unification of a Slave State, pp. 1-108, 238-268.

    *James P. Whittenburg, "Planters, Merchants, and Lawyers: Social Change and the Origins of the North Carolina Regulation."

    **possible showing of the documentary Alamance in class

    March 27: Agriculture, Expansion, and Social Change

    Chaplin, Anxious Pursuit, pp. 1-65, 187-226, 277-329.

    *South Carolina Gazette, selected letters to the editor (1740s)

    **assignment due: Submit an excerpt, summary, or outline of your term paper

    (4-5 pp.). Bring enough copies for everyone in the class.

    April 3: student presentations

    Read and comment on your classmates' outlines. We will discuss each project briefly in class and return the outlines to one another at the end of the period.

    April 10: The American Revolution in the Lower South

    *John Laurens and Henry Laurens, selected letters

    *Aedanus Burke, selected letters to Arthur Middleton

    *David Ramsay, History of the American Revolution (1789), pp. 598-606, 625-638.

    **rough drafts due (at least 15 pages of writing).

    April 17: Towards the Antebellum South

    McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds, pp. 92-207.

    **Term papers will be due on Friday, May 9, by noon.