Comparative analysis of Elkins historical interpretation of slavery with James McPhersons interpretation in Ordeal by Fire - Essay Example

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Two authors – Stanley Elkins and James McPherson – have both offered analyses of the subject, the former from the point of view of the effect of slavery on the individual, and the latter from the perspective of the…
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Comparative analysis of Elkins historical interpretation of slavery with James McPhersons interpretation in Ordeal by Fire
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Download file to see previous pages ze the similarities and differences between the two authors, the relevance of their treatments – fact versus anecdote – and which of the two can be said – in the light of hindsight – to have most accurately described antebellum slavery.
Elkins’ and McPherson’s books represent two very differing accounts of slavery and are separated in time by almost a quarter of a century. Elkins discusses the subject in general terms, and advances two main arguments:-
It is now appropriate to expand the argument and discuss the points of agreement and disagreement between the two authors and to consider – in the light of history – whose arguments represent the most appropriate view of US slavery
Elkins believed that “the behavior you exhibit is who you are” (Elkins,1959); he maintained that slavery was ”so degrading and dehumanizing that slaves lost their identities and became “Sambos” [docile, child-like, content and striving for attention]
The different attitudes to slavery in the North and South of the country were profound; in the North slaves worked mainly as domestic servants, while those in the South were employed in agriculture – originally on three crops: tobacco, rice and indigo, and later on cotton as well. In the North, by the nineteenth century, strong feelings developed that it was not acceptable for one man to own another, and the abolitionists gained strength due to influence of the Quakers, Methodists and other factions. Elkins (1959) wrote “To the Northern reformer, every other concrete fact concerning slavery was dwarfed by its character as a moral evil – as an obscenity condemned by God and universally offensive to humanity” (Elkins, 1959). Many Northern church dignitaries believed that while one slave remained the whole populace was culpable [Cain and Abel – “his brother’s keeper”].
In the South, by contrast, it was held that slavery “was a positive moral good – a necessary arrangement sanctioned in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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