The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

Book Reviews

cipal events, the legislative achievements of the Senate years, the Great
Society, the war on poverty, and Vietnam.
The book also has its limitations. Conkin is too concise. He seems so
intent on telling the whole story in brief scope that most of the book
reads like a breathless summary of events. A more leisurely pace and a
greater use of Johnson's words would have made the man and events
come more alive. Further, the book has no footnotes, only brief biblio-
graphical essays for each chapter describing the principal sources. Con-
kin offers some fascinating and provocative conclusions that are diffi-
cult to assess without more information about the evidence on which
they rest. In sum, this is now the best one-volume study we have on
LBJ, but it is only a beginning. One hopes that it is the first of what will
become a thoughtful body of historical scholarship on one of the most
important presidents in American history.
The University of Calzfornia at Los Angeles ROBERT DALLEK
Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy since the Civil
War. By Gavin Wright. (New York: Basic Books, 1986. Pp. x+321.
Preface, tables, maps, figures, notes, suggested readings, index.
$19.95.)
Gavin Wright sets himself an imposing task: to explain why the econ-
omy of the southern states made southerners relatively wealthy before
1860, generated poverty after 1860, and then grew rapidly after World
War II. His explanation is straightforward. In the years between the
Civil War and the 194os "the South constituted a separate regional la-
bor market, outside the scope of national and international labor mar-
kets that were active and effective in the same era" (p. 7). The effect of
this isolation was to force wages and the standard of living below those
of the North and Western Europe. This was especially true when the
price of cotton, the major source of wealth in the region, declined.
Having established this premise the central questions become: How was
an isolated labor market established in the first place? Why did it so
long persist? Why did it end when it did?
Wright argues that antebellum planters were primarily "laborlords"
who paid scant attention to building up the value of their land. With
the price of cotton relatively high and new land available in the South-
west, the planter elite had no need to increase real-estate values by in-
vesting in towns, factories, and transportation. Instead they sought to
maximize their profits in agriculture and to maintain the value of their
slaves. When the land wore out they took their slaves westward to more
fertile acreage. Even though few southerners went north in search of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed September 18, 2014.