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11.09.11 : Eaton, Clifford, The Civilization of the Old South, Writings of Clement Eaton, published in 1968

About the Author

Professor Clement Eaton ranks among academics as one of the major historians of the Old South.  His critics tout him as a factual recorder who has made Southern history much richer.  As a young man Eaton was a student at the University of North Carolina who lived in the ‘Old Inn’ in the room next to Thomas Wolf.  He ate at the table with Wolfe, Paul Green, Luther Hodges, and Albert Coates.  Finishing his education at Harvard, Eaton moved to teach at Lafayette College and rose to professorial rank and then chairman of history.  In 1947 he moved to the University of Kentucky where he remained until retirement.

Our Review

The history of the Old South is a story that we hold dear in our recollections.  Much of this history is gleaned from family stories, county histories, and wills that are either clinical or embellished by emotion?  A more complete picture can be found in the review of The Civilization of the Old South by Professor Clement Eaton

The Civilization of the Old South identifies and defines the individual characters who populated the American Southland from a time before the creation of the Constitution through the War for Southern Independence.  Eaton describes the relationships between the different factions of the population in the early 19th century such as the Planter, the Creole, the Cajun, The Yeoman, and the ‘white trash’ along with the Negro slave and freeman.  We learn in this work that each of these groups contributed to the world of the ante-bellum Southerner offering varying and important contributions.  The important elements of the South from Virginia to South Carolina and then Louisiana are described in exacting detail in this work which paints a complete picture of the South of the times.

Politics played an important role in the life of the Southerner from colonial times to the time of publication of this important work in 1968.  Many individuals contributed to the building of America and Eaton fleshes out the thoughts of Clay and Calhoun along with commentary on Cassius Marcellus Clay, Zebulon Vance, Joe Brown and Alexander Stevens.

Eaton documents his work in a through academic fashion while bringing out parameters of Southern thought that are not commonly reported in other histories.  That ‘States Rights’ interfered with the conduct of the war is new information to many readers as Brown and Vance withheld men from conscription roles to protect their States and harvest their crops.  Agricultural failure added to the economic downfall of the 1850s adding to the Northeast’s tax burden imposed on Southern farmers of the time.  These are among the different revelations of this classic work.

The reader will enjoy the flowing style of this history akin to a narrative of pleasure reading.  But when finished, one will wish to re-read either specific portions or perhaps the entirety in order to become better educated on the wonderful story of our ancestors time and surroundings.  Give it a try and you will be glad of the effort.

Availability of this book

We suggest getting a used book from Amazon.  Several available.

Jack Butterworth, MD