From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Antebellum South (also known as the antebellum era or plantation era) was a period in the history of the Southern United States from the late 18th century until the start of the American Civil War in 1861. This period in the South's history was marked by the economic growth of the region, largely due to its heavy reliance on slavery, and of its political influence on the U.S. federal government. It was also characterized by the rise of abolition and the gradual polarization of the country between abolitionists and supporters of slavery.
The antebellum South saw large expansions in agriculture while manufacturing growth remained relatively slow. The southern economy was characterized by a low level of capital accumulation (largely labor-based) and a shortage of liquid capital, which, when aggravated by the need to concentrate on a few staples, the pervasive anti-industrial, and anti-urban ideology, and the reduction of southern banking, led to a South dependent on export trade. In contrast to the economies of the North and West, which relied primarily on their own domestic markets, because the southern domestic market consisted primarily of plantations, southern states imported sustenance commodities from the West and manufactured goods from the North.
The plantation system can be seen as the factory system applied to agriculture, with a concentration of labor under skilled management. But while the industrial manufacturing-based labor economy of the North was driven by growing demand, maintenance of the plantation economic system depended upon usage of slave labor that was both abundant and cheap.
The five major commodities of the southern agricultural economy were cotton, grain, tobacco, sugar, and rice, with the production of the leading cash crop, cotton, concentrated in the Deep South (Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana).
- Black Belt (U.S. region)
- Reconstruction era
- Deep South
- New South, the post-Reconstruction Era economy and society in the Southern U.S.
- Old South, the pre-Civil War economy and society in the Southern U.S.