Karp, M. (2016). This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 360 pages

Kevin Caprice (Purdue University)

DOI: 10.6018/pantarei/2018/11


In This Vast Southern Empire, Matthew Karp steps back from the previous historiography of the slaveholding antebellum South, a historiography that situates slaveholders as antiquated and inward looking, and, instead, Karp sees a slaveholding Southern elite looking outward in an attempt to enshrine their vision of modernity: a world economy run on slave labor. Karp bookends his study with the 1833 British emancipation of the West Indies, seen by Southerners as a global threat to the proliferation of slavery, and the creation and ultimate failure of the Confederate States of America, which Karp deems the “boldest foreign policy project of all” (p. 2). In this fresh take, Karp argues that, from 1833 to 1861, Southern elites eagerly utilized Federal power to secure the safety of slavery, not just in the United States, but throughout the Western Hemisphere.


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