Elkins and Slavery
- A Research paper or book report on Stanley Elkins' Slavery can be compared and contrasted with other work, such as James McPherson's Ordeal by Fire. Whether or not you compare it to any other work, be sure your report includes Elkins' historical interpretation of slavery. You can have the writers at Paper Masters custom write you research on Elkins, slavery or how slavery is viewed in historical academia today.
To Elkins, therefore, slaves exercised little autonomy over their own lives. Like the victims of Nazi Germany, American slaves were forced to obey their masters and had no real control over their fates. Elkins' treatment of the subject of slavery is controversial and not widely accepted. He contends that the paternalistic relationship between the plantation owners and their slaves prevented the slaves from creating their own culture because they came to be so dependent upon their masters. He argues that this relationship lingered into the present day (then the early 1960's). His argument tends to remove any agency of the slaves, who were reduced to the role of children following the lead of their "parents," the slave owners. He would contend that the church and other social institutions factored more prominently in the lives of individual slaves than McPherson, who acknowledges the development of slave culture in response to required adherence to slave owner social institutions such as the church.
Topic Suggestion on Stanley Elkin's Slavery
Read Stanley Elkins' Slavery and then write a term paper comparative analysis of Elkins' historical interpretation of slavery with James McPherson's interpretation in Ordeal by Fire.
Your term paper should address the following questions:
- What are the points of agreement and disagreement between the two authors, Stanley Elkins and James McPherson, concerning the institution of slavery?
- Specifically, what influence did institutions like the church have on the character of American slavery?
- How much control did the masters have over their slaves? Did the slaves exercise any autonomy over their own lives?
- Did American devotion to limited government and laissez faire capitalism ameliorate the brutality of slavery?
- What evidence does each author use to support his arguments, and is the evidence anecdotal or quantifiable?
- Which author more accurately describes antebellum American slavery? Why?
About Elkins View of Slavery
To Elkins, slavery, more than technological progress, was a driver of Southern actions. While McPherson's text reads more like a standard historical reference book, with his concentration upon the interaction of events that culminated in war, Elkins' concentration is more upon the psychological factors associated with the institution of slavery within the context of war. To Elkins, the comparison between the American institution of slavery and Nazi concentration camps is a valid one. He offers a very empathetic description of the horrors endured by members of America's slave caste.
According to Elkins, the institution of slavery provided an excuse for the North to wage war on the South; politically, the North could claim that it had a need to correct the barbaric institution as perpetuated by the South. Elkins' purpose is writing his book is less to offer a historical accounting of the Civil War's events but rather to strengthen and reinvigorate modern interest in the institution of slavery. According to Elkins, much of the historical scholarship on slavery has resolved the subject's primary interests. Opinions in academia and the public had become static. "With all the detachment in the world, no scholar of principle could be expected in a new and enlightened age to countenance human-chattel slavery". Elkins fears that there is no immediacy to the topic of the slavery and his book seeks to inject a renewed scholarly interest to the subject by drawing distinctions between the institution of slavery and the more recent modern horror of the Nazi holocaust.
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