Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pg. 99: Matthew Guterl's "American Mediterranean"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Matthew Pratt Guterl's American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation.

About the book, from the publisher:
How did slave-owning Southern planters make sense of the transformation of their world in the Civil War era? Matthew Pratt Guterl shows that they looked beyond their borders for answers. He traces the links that bound them to the wider fraternity of slaveholders in Cuba, Brazil, and elsewhere, and charts their changing political place in the hemisphere.

Through such figures as the West Indian Confederate Judah Benjamin, Cuban expatriate Ambrosio Gonzales, and the exile Eliza McHatton, Guterl examines how the Southern elite connected—by travel, print culture, even the prospect of future conquest—with the communities of New World slaveholders as they redefined their world. He analyzes why they invested in a vision of the circum-Caribbean, and how their commitment to this broader slave-owning community fared. From Rebel exiles in Cuba to West Indian apprenticeship and the Black Codes to the “labor problem” of the postwar South, this beautifully written book recasts the nineteenth-century South as a complicated borderland in a pan-American vision.
Among the early praise for American Mediterranean:
"In an ambitious and compelling book, Matthew Pratt Guterl asks us to rethink accounts of race, slavery, and national identity within a framework of the Americas. In revealing the hemispheric underpinnings of the South's master class of slaveholders, he sheds important new light on American history. This is also a wonderful book to read. Guterl is a remarkably elegant, at times virtuosic, writer."
--Caroline Levander, author of Cradle of Liberty

"A model of transnational history that reconceives the era of emancipation from a truly exciting hemispheric perspective. Guterl decisively demonstrates that the post-emancipation South cannot be properly understood unless it is viewed in connection with those parts of the Caribbean and Central and South America that also confronted labor problems in the aftermath of abolition."
--Steven Mintz, author of Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

With this elegantly written study, Guterl powerfully resituates the U.S. South within the 'American Mediterranean,' and in the process he uncovers the story of a Southern, slave-holding master class that understood itself both as 'American' and as a part of the wider arena of slave-holding power in the New World. With its focus on the complex relation between labor and transnationalism, this is a timely and much needed book."
--Anna Brickhouse, University of Virginia

"This startlingly original, interdisciplinary study compels one to think afresh about the geographical status of the American South. Guterl marshals an impressive range of materials to demonstrate how Southern slaveholders participated in a pan-American class whose shared consciousness relocated them within a circum-Atlantic topography that included the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. In uncovering this heretofore ignored cartography, he has revealed a deeper history of New World slavery and freedom."
--Donald Pease, Dartmouth College
Read an excerpt from American Mediterranean, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Matthew Guterl is Associate Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies, and Director of the American Studies Program, at Indiana University.

The Page 99 Test: American Mediterranean.

--Marshal Zeringue