Monday, September 18, 2023

Booknotes: Two Counties in Crisis

New Arrival:

Two Counties in Crisis: Measuring Political Change in Reconstruction Texas by Robert J. Dillard (UNT Press, 2023).

From the description: "Commercially prosperous and built on slave labor in the mold of Deep South plantation culture, East Texas’s Harrison County" (its county seat being Marshall, a regional center very frequently mentioned in the Civil War literature) "strongly supported secession in 1861. West Texas’s Collin County, characterized by individual and family farms with a limited slave population, favored the Union. During Reconstruction, Collin County became increasingly conservative and eventually bore a great resemblance to Harrison County. By 1876 and the ratification of the regressive Texas Constitution, Collin County had become firmly resistant to all aspects of Reconstruction." By maps of the state's regions that I've seen online, Collin County is firmly in "North" or "North Central" Texas, so I'm not sure where the West Texas regional location comes from. Perhaps that's an older designation from the period in question.

Political scientist Robert Dillard's study "seeks to investigate social and political change by integrating elements of the political culture genre into a narrative of Reconstruction focused on a case study analysis" of these two "dramatically different" counties. In the author's view, his dual county study of cultural evolution "illustrates how political cultures consolidate themselves, and how the process of achieving unity hinges not upon cultural commonalities between citizens but upon fear, distrust, and hatred of the oppositional culture that seeks to do them harm" (pg. x). According to Dillard, in this case, consolidated resistance was expressed and maintained in ways that hindered the "common good."

More from the description: Two Counties in Crisis "offers a rare opportunity to observe how local political cultures are transformed by state and national events. Utilizing an interdisciplinary fusion of history and political science, Robert J. Dillard analyzes two disparate Texas counties—traditionalist Harrison County and individualist Collin County—and examines four Reconstruction governors (Hamilton, Throckmorton, Pease, Davis) to aid the narrative and provide additional cultural context."

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