The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975 Page: 216
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
slaves' lives compared favorably with those of free industrial workers in the
North and that the belief that slave-breeding, sexual exploitation, and sexual
promiscuity destroyed the black family is a myth. Some conclusions are
startlingly new. The authors found that southern slave agriculture was 35
percent more efficient than northern family farming, that the typical slave
field hand received 90o percent of the income that he produced during his
lifetime, that the typical field hand was more efficient than his white coun-
terpart, and that the economy of the South was growing rapidly at the end
of the antebellum period.
Fogel and Engerman reached their conclusions by applying the formid-
able methodology of "cliometrics" to an impressively broad range of quan-
titative data and by critical analysis of the primary sources of the traditional
interpretation, especially the writings of antisouthern observers such as
Frederick Law Olmsted. The methodology is so formidable that it has been
relegated, along with the footnotes and an extended historiographical essay,
to a second volume. This makes sense in presenting the authors' main ideas
to the reader, but it is bothersome to move from one volume to another for
basic footnote information. A first volume with standard documentation
including references to explanations of methodology in the second volume
would have been more successful.
Undoubtedly many of this study's conclusions will be questioned on a
variety of grounds, and some adjustments will be made. The use of per
capita income, for example, as an index of economic growth in the ante-
bellum South is certain to be questioned by those who see industrialization
as the only true measure of economic development. But for now these con-
clusions cannot be rejected outright, and therefore their historical impli-
cations must be considered.
Fogel and Engerman are not trying to "sell" slavery. Instead they begin
with the assumption that slavery was immoral and that there is no need to
make it into an inefficient, absolutely brutal, totally degrading institution
in order to prove that it was "wrong." Abolitionists and neo-abolitionist
historians alike, in their great desire to attack slavery, insisted that the
institution turned slaves into lazy, bungling, inefficient workers who were
so degraded as human beings that many were not even capable of family
relationships. Fogel and Engerman argue that slaves functioned as effective
individuals living reasonably well materially and providing the labor for a
remarkably productive, thriving economy. This they see not as evidence
that slavery was "good," but as "the record of black achievement under
adversity." Perhaps their conclusions do in some way reduce the oppor-
tunity to blame slavery for the plight of black Americans since 1865. But
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975, periodical, 1974/1975; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/m1/251/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.