This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy

Matthew Karp. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (360p) ISBN 978-0-674-73725-9
In this adept and detailed scholarly work, Karp, assistant professor of history at Princeton, examines the international politics of slavery in the antebellum era alongside the outlook and influence of proslavery Southern statesmen. Karp reveals how, in the decades leading up to the Civil War, Southern slaveholders disproportionately controlled the levers of federal power, particularly in the realm of foreign affairs. They closely followed the international balance between slavery and freedom with “feverish attention” and “ideological confidence and worldly sophistication,” rather than isolated, reactionary defensiveness. Faced with a rising domestic movement against slavery and what was deemed Britain’s “imperial abolitionism,” these proslavery statesmen largely abandoned traditional conservative qualms against federal power, using their influence to forge the American state into “the chief hemispheric champion of slavery” while defending and preserving black servitude domestically and in such diverse places as Brazil, Cuba, and Texas. Karp further argues that this aggressive approach was a major factor in the Mexican-American War, the secession of the South, and the Civil War, as these leading policy makers were unwilling to relinquish their chance at constructing “the global order they envisioned—based on racial hierarchy, coerced labor, and aggressive state power.” Karp’s thorough and polished study will be eagerly welcomed by scholars, if not a wider public. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5414-5276-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-5414-0276-8
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-674-98677-0
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