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The Agrarian Origins Of US-Capitalism: The Transformation Of The Northern Countryside Before The Civil War

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Chapter Summary

This chapter reviews and assesses the debate on the rural origins of US capitalism in light of the theoretical insights generated by the discussion of the transition to capitalism in Europe. It discusses the recent literature on antebellum-Northern agriculture in three parts. First, it examines how various 'market'- and 'social' historians analyse the socio-economic structure of rural production before the Civil War. Second, the chapter examines how the participants in the US debate explain the transition from 'non-commercial' to 'commercial' agriculture in the nineteenth century. Finally, it offers an outline of an alternative analysis the transformation of Northern rural social-property relations in the antebellum-period. The social origins and historical timing of the political crisis that culminated in the Civil War can be located in the transformation of plantation-slavery from a spur into an obstacle to the development of capitalism in the US.

Keywords: agrarian revolution; Civil War; northern agriculture; US capitalism



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