Friday, September 9, 2022

Booknotes: When Emancipation Came

New Arrival:
When Emancipation Came: The End of Enslavement on a Southern Plantation and a Russian Estate by Sally Stocksdale (McFarland, 2022).

From the description: "Linked by declarations of emancipation within the same five-year period, two countries shared human rights issues on two distinct continents. In this book, readers will find a case-study comparison of the emancipation of Russian serfs on the Yazykovo Selo estate and American slaves at the Palmyra Plantation."

This book is part of a recent trend in the historiography that seeks to explore the causes, conduct, and aftermath of the American Civil War in a more international/global context. For geographical point of reference, the Yazykovo Selo estate was located in Simbirsk Province of Imperial Russia, west of the provincial capital (now known as Ulyanovsk). Palmyra Plantation, owned by John Quitman, was situated near Davis Bend in Mississippi. Both mansion houses of the estate/plantation owners, Yazykov and the Quitman/Lovell house in Natchez, survive today.

"Although state policies and reactions may not follow the same paths in each area, there were striking thematic parallels." As revealed in the preface, "thematic categories" explored in the book's four parts include: immobility vs. mobility in labor obligations, contracts, and performance; variables in contract and wage labor; rumors, fears, and suspicions surrounding emancipation; war and armies (both emancipation processes were forged in a wartime context); and, finally, the differing views between former serfs/slaves and former masters/slaveowners when it came to expectations of freedom's meaning and limits in newly emancipated society.

More from the description: "These findings add to our understanding of what happens throughout an emancipation process in which the state grants freedom, and therefore speaks to the universality of the human experience. Despite the political and economic differences between the two countries, as well as their geographic and cultural distances, this book re-conceptualizes emancipation and its aftermath in each country: from a history that treats each as a separate, self-contained story to one with a unified, global framework."

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