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  • Peter Kolchin, Professor Emeritus in the History Department at the University of Delaware

    Professor Emeritus
    University of Delaware
    Newark, DE 19716

    Biography

    ​Peter Kolchin is the Henry Clay Reed Professor Emeritus of History. With research interests in slavery, emancipation, the nineteenth-century United States, southern history, and comparative history, he is currently working on a comparative study of emancipation and its aftermath in Russia and the U. S. South. Among his most important honors and awards are the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Organization of American Historians’ Avery Craven Award, the Southern Historical Association’s Charles Sydnor Award, UD’s Francis Alison Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He was the 2014 President of the Southern Historical Association.

    Publications

    Books:

    • First Freedom: The Responses of Alabama’s Blacks to Emancipation and Reconstruction (The University of Alabama Press, 1972, rev. ed. 2008)
    • A Sphinx on the American Land: The Nineteenth-Century South in Comparative Perspective (Louisiana State University Press, 2003)
    • American Slavery, 1619-1877 (Hill and Wang, 1993, rev. ed. 2003)
    • Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1987)

    Articles and Book Chapters

    • “Comparative Perspectives on Emancipation in the U. S. South: Reconstruction, Radicalism, and Russia,” Journal of the Civil War Era (June, 2012)
    • “The South and the World,”Journal of Southern History(August, 2009)
    • “L’Approche comparée de l’étude de l’esclavage: Problèmes et perspectives,” in Myriam Cottias et al, eds., Esclavage et dépendances serviles: Histoire compare (2006)
    • “Eugene D. Genovese: Historian of Slavery,” Radical History Review (Winter, 2004)
    • “Whiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America,” Journal of American History (June, 2002)

 

 

 

 

First Freedom: The Responses of Alabama’s Blacks to Emancipation and ReconstructionKolchin, PeterThe University of Alabama Press2008, rev. ed. 1972http://www.uapress.ua.edu/product/First-Freedom,2450.aspx<p>​Crucial changes occurred during the years following the Civil War as blacks manifested their desire to live as independently as possible and to reject every social relation reminiscent of slavery. This classic study of the history of post-slave societies helped to initiate historiographic trends that remain central to the study of emancipation.</p>
American Slavery, 1619-1877Kolchin, PeterHill and Wang2003 rev. ed. 1993https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780809016303<p><strong>The single best short survey in America, now updated.</strong><strong> Includes a New Preface and Afterward</strong></p><p>In terms of accessibility and comprehensive coverage, Kolchin's American Slavery is a singularly important achievement. Now updated to address a decade of new scholarship, the book includes a new preface, afterword, and revised and expanded bibliographic essay. It remains the best book to introduce a subject of profound and lasting importance, one that lies at the center of American history.</p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>
A Sphinx on the American Land: The Nineteenth-Century South in Comparative PerspectiveKolchin, PeterLouisiana State University Press2003https://lsupress.org/books/detail/a-sphinx-on-the-american-land/<p> One reason that the South attracts so much interest is that its history inevitably involves big questions—continuity versus change, slavery and freedom, the meaning of “race,” the formation of national identity, the struggle between local and centralized authority. Because these issues are central to human experience, southern history properly conceived is of more than regional interest. In <em>A Sphinx on the American Land,</em> Peter Kolchin explores three comparative frameworks for the study of the nineteenth-century South in an effort to nudge the subject away from provincialism and toward the kind of global concerns that are already transforming it into one of the most innovative fields of historical research.</p><p> The volume opens with a comparison between the South and the North, or what Kolchin terms the “un-South.” This basic context, he explains, provides an essential backdrop for understanding the South; how one conceptualizes “southernness” has meaning only in terms of what it is not. Turning to the cohesion and variations among what he calls the “many Souths,” Kolchin reminds us that there has never been one South or archetypal southerner. Internal distinctions—whether geographic, class, religious, or racial—ultimately raise the question of whether one can properly speak of “the” South at all.</p><p> Finally, Kolchin explores parallels between the South and regions outside the United States—or “other Souths.” He considers a number of ways in which the South can be studied in a broad international setting, paying particular attention to the similarities and differences between the emancipation of southern slaves and Russian serfs. In an eloquent afterword, he ponders the nature and importance of comparative history.</p><p> Kolchin examines how scholars have approached each of his comparative frameworks and how they might do so in the future, making <em>A Sphinx on the American Land</em> at once a work of history and of historiography. Illustrating the ways in which southern history is also American history and world history, this elegant, profound volume proves Kolchin to be one of the stellar southern historians of his generation.</p>
Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian SerfdomKolchin, PeterBelknap Press of Harvard University Press1987http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674920989<p>Two massive systems of unfree labor arose, a world apart from each other, in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The American enslavement of blacks and the Russian subjection of serfs flourished in different ways and varying degrees until they were legally abolished in the mid-nineteenth century. Historian <strong>Peter Kolchin</strong> compares and contrasts the two systems over time in this magisterial book, which clarifies the organization, structure, and dynamics of both social entities, highlighting their basic similarities while pointing out important differences discernible only in comparative perspective.</p><p>These differences involved both the masters and the bondsmen. The independence and resident mentality of American slaveholders facilitated the emergence of a vigorous crusade to defend slavery from outside attack, whereas an absentee orientation and dependence on the central government rendered serfholders unable successfully to defend serfdom. Russian serfs, who generally lived on larger holdings than American slaves and faced less immediate interference in their everyday lives, found it easier to assert their communal autonomy but showed relatively little solidarity with peasants outside their own villages; American slaves, by contrast, were both more individualistic and more able to identify with all other blacks, both slave and free.</p><p>Kolchin has discovered apparently universal features in master–bondsman relations, a central focus of his study, but he also shows their basic differences as he compares slave and serf life and chronicles patterns of resistance. If the masters had the upper hand, the slaves and serfs played major roles in shaping, and setting limits to, their own bondage.</p><p>This truly unprecedented comparative work will fascinate historians, sociologists, and all social scientists, particularly those with an interest in comparative history and studies in slavery.</p>

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