Two Kinds of Freedom: Mercantile development and labor systems in Louisiana cotton and sugar parishes after the Civil War


Although the importance of country stores to the economy of the post - Civil War South has long been widely acknowledged, by far the most careful and influential analysis of rural merchants is Ransom and Sutch's One Kind of Freedom (1977), which used mostly region-wide data for its estimates of the numbers, capital, and spatial density of stores in the Cotton South. While paralleling the categories, methods, and evidentiary sources of One Kind of Freedom, this article instead takes a micro-level approach, comparing store development in two Reconstruction-era Louisiana parishes-one devoted to cotton production, the other to sugar. Data from these parishes and elsewhere in Louisiana suggests several problems with Ransom and Sutch 's conclusions, especially their famous "territorial monopoly" thesis. Moreover, the superior performance of sugar parish stores underscores the significance of differences between the credit-dependent sharecropping system prevalent in cotton regions and the cash wages paid to sugar workers - distinctions that have often been intentionally blurred in recent historiography. © the Agricultural History Society, 2011.

Publication Title

Agricultural History