Peter Kolchin : American Slavery review

Topics: Slavery in the United States, Slavery, American Civil War Pages: 5 (1708 words) Published: January 15, 2007
Peter Kolchin is a history professor at the University of Delaware. In 1970, Kolchin received a degree from John Hopkins University. He now specializes in nineteenth-century U.S. history, the South, slavery and emancipation, and comparative history. In his career he has written many books on slavery including Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom and First Freedom: The Responses of Alabama's Blacks to Emancipation and Reconstruction (Peter Kolchin...). In 1993, his third book American Slavery was published and 10 years later a revised copy was released which featured a new preface and afterword (Thomas). This book was re-released in order to catch up to the increase scholarly interest in slavery.

"American Slavery: 1619-1877" is the full title of the book. The revised copy does not differ much from the original text as stated before. Kolchin states on page xvii of his Preface to the Revised Edition that, "The seven chapters that form the heart of the book remain unchanged". It is only when one reaches the afterword or the bibliographical essay when the revisions are seen. The purpose of the book directly correlates to its title, American Slavery. The book is basically a piece of literature designed to provide a better understanding for American slavery, and slavery in general including trade and life as a slave.

The book follows somewhat of a timeline, beginning with the origins of slavery and following it throughout history focusing generally on the time frame of the colonial era and the 19th century to the end of slavery in America. In American Slavery there is much focus associated with the antebellum period. The antebellum period can be generalized as the years between the formation of a Union and the Civil War (Free Blacks...).

Kolchin's book can be separated from what we have read in other books in that it is rather comprehensive opposed to other works in which focus on one time period. This broader viewpoint can provide a reader with a much better understanding of the subject by allowing them to resort to one book rather than multiple books. American Slavery also provides a history of slavery with a modern twist away from the old text in which we read throughout our education and answers questions in which are not clearly answered or explained in those same text.

Kolchin states his purpose for the book on pages x and xi of the preface he explains several goals in which he had in mind while writing the book. The first was to create an account of slavery that was substantial and historiographical, the second was to aim for a balanced approach providing accounts of every aspect of slavery, the third was to show how slavery changed over time, and finally his last goal was to point out that slavery is not a "peculiar institution," it was more ubiquitous. In simpler terms slavery was not a unique event it was everywhere. All of these goals Kolchin completed with great success.

Overall I feel Kolchin did a terrific job with this book. If it was not the only novel I have read in entirety over this subject I believe it would be by far the best. The only thing that comes close to this subject is Uncle Tom's Cabin. American Slavery provides much more factual information and detail about the time period and the meaning of slavery overall.

Kolchin involves a lot of aspects on slavery; however, the one thing which I noticed that I would like to have read a little more about was the origins of slavery, which is the first chapter of the book. I would have liked to known a little more of where slavery began and where its true origins are not specifically the origins of slavery which lead to the Western slavery which we are all taught in our history books. He did do a magnificent job in slavery in the 17th century to the slavery in which we know.

Kolchin also describes several aspects of slavery in which I was not taught very well in school. He states that slaves varied widely in terms of gender and...

Cited: "Antebellum Period (1850-1861) & Civil war." Antebellum Period (1850-
1861) & Civil war. 20 Nov. 2005 .
"Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period." Afican American Odyssey: Free
Blacks in the Antebellum Period (part 1). African American Odyssey. 20 Nov. 2005 .
"Peter Kolchin: Henry Clay Reed Professor." Kolchin. University of
Delaware. 20 Nov. 2005 .
Thomas, Beth. "PETER KOLCHIN WINS ALISON AWARD." Elements December
2002. 20 Nov 2005 .
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