The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country, 1670-1920

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Date: Winter 1989
From: Business History Review(Vol. 63, Issue 4)
Publisher: Business History Review
Document Type: Book review
Length: 945 words

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The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country Peter Coclanis has written an ambitious and generally successful book. It is both brief (160) pages of text) and well documented (over 200 pages of appendixes, notes, and bibliography). It is, for the most part, well argued and well written--although the prose style often seems (to me, at least) a bit mannered and precious. On the whole, the book offers an insightful overview of the low country and, at its best, suggests implications that reach far beyond that "dismal little corner of the world in a brutish period long past" (p. 50).

Indeed, Coclanis does a fine job of locating the South Carolina rice culture within a global ecological and economic context. He explains how the particular configuration of soil, climate, plant life, and disease environment made the southern low country one of the world's best regions for rice production. Still, rice culture resulted not from ecological determinism but from mercantilism. The original seventeenth-century proprietors were "serious and competent promoters" (p. 23) who helped make South Carolina "an exemplary mercantilist colony, that is, staple-producing, dependent, and complementary" (p. 26). More important, the white settlers of South Carolina were "economically rational white men" (p. 58) who eagerly embraced the mentalite of the market. Although Coclanis offers only a crude caricature of an alternative mentalite, one is inclined to accept his argument, at...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A10619826