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De Bow’s Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South

by John F. Kvach

Availablecloth$50.00x 978-0-8131-4420-7
Availableepub$50.00x 978-0-8131-4421-4
Availableweb pdf$50.00x 978-0-8131-4422-1
New Directions in Southern History
280 pages  Pubdate: 12/03/2013  6 x 9  1 map, 14 tables

In the decades preceding the Civil War, the South struggled against widespread negative characterizations of its economy and society as it worked to match the North’s infrastructure and level of development. Recognizing the need for regional reform, James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow began to publish a monthly journal—De Bow’s Review— to guide Southerners toward a stronger, more diversified future. His periodical soon became a primary reference for planters and entrepreneurs in the Old South, promoting urban development and industrialization and advocating investment in schools, libraries, and other cultural resources. Later, however, De Bow began to use his journal to manipulate his readers’ political views. Through inflammatory articles, he defended proslavery ideology, encouraged Southern nationalism, and promoted anti-Union sentiment, eventually becoming one of the South’s most notorious fire-eaters.

In De Bow’s Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South, author John Kvach explores how the editor’s antebellum economic and social policies influenced Southern readers and created the framework for a postwar New South movement. By recreating subscription lists and examining the lives and livelihoods of 1,500 Review readers, Kvach demonstrates how De Bow’s Review influenced a generation and a half of Southerners. This approach allows modern readers to understand the historical context of De Bow’s editorial legacy. Ultimately, De Bow and his antebellum subscribers altered the future of their region by creating the vision of a New South long before the Civil War.

John Kvach is professor of history at the University of Alabama–Huntsville.

This is an original, well-researched, and interesting volume. The writing is clear and smooth, the author has taken into account all of the relevant primary and secondary sources, and the material will influence historiographical debates on Southern political economy and print culture. We are certainly overdue for a biography on De Bow. -- Jonathan Daniel Wells, author of Women Writers and Journalists in the Nineteenth-Century South

Kvach fills a surprising gap in the history of the nineteenth-century South with this elegantly written biography of the enigmatic J. D. B. De Bow. The work represents an important contribution to a growing historiography exploring the presence of a middle-class commercial culture in the pre–Civil War South and challenging long-held views of a static socioeconomic world of planters and plain folk. -- Bruce W. Eelman, author of Entrepreneurs in the Southern Upcountry: Commercial Culture in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1845-1880

This is an insightful, original, deeply researched work of scholarship. Examining not only the career of journalist J. D. B. De Bow but also the readers who responded enthusiastically to his call for economic diversification, John F. Kvach helps us see the nineteenth-century South in a new way, undistorted by the stark, artificial line so many historians have drawn to separate the so-called Old South from the New. -- Stephen V. Ash, author of A Massacre in Memphis: The Race Riot That Shook the Nation One Year after the Civil War

J.D.B. DeBow was the antebellum South's most prominent advocate of economic modernization and industrialization, and one of its most vitriolic secessionists. John Kvach explores this seeming paradox, and gives us as well a careful description of DeBow's subsribers and followers -- J. Mills Thornton, University of Michigan

Kvach introduces us to more than a mere editor. Kvach sees his subject as a man who believed the South could use industry and innovation to build its economy beyond plantation agriculture...Kvach tells a compelling story. -- The South Carolina Historical Magazine

Kvach’s account of De Bow’s life and writings has tremendous merit. Historians will especially appreciate Kvach’s spadework in finding out about the Review’s readers and connecting the content of the periodical to the concerns of its audience. This study should be read by anyone interested in understanding how slaveholders thought about their world and its future. -- American Historical Review

[. . .] [A]n indispensable source for historians studying the economic, intellectual, and cultural life of the Old South.
[. . .] Based in methodical research and written in clear prose, De Bow’s Review will be the standard work on this man and his influential paper for some time. -- Florida Historical Quarterly