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Frankie Silvers, the first woman to be executed in North Carolina (in 1833 for killing her two-timing husband), is disappointing. Her observations about femaleheaded households, women's labor, and women slaveholders are hardly new, and her references to the ballad obscure rather than illuminate them. But this is a minor blemish on an otherwise excellent and welcome volume that offers a schematic but solidly researched overview of nineteenth-century Appalachian history. One can hope that other scholars will follow the lead and produce similar studies for parts of the region not adequately treated here. The present collection makes a powerful and cogent argument against continuing to think of Appalachia in exceptionalist terms as an isolated and unique, vaguely mountainous, homogeneously agricultural and rural enclave of premodern, culturally violence-prone, dangerously inbred white folks. "What Nature Suffers to Groe" life, Labor, and Landscape on the Georgia Coast, 1680—1920 By Mart A. Stewart University of Georgia Press, 1996 360 pp. Cloth, $45.00 Reviewed by Albert E. Cowdrey, adjunct professor of history at the University of New Orleans. If environmental history has one pervading characteristic, it is discontinuity. Climatic and geographical determinism are long dead, and generalizations to replace them are hard to come by, especially as the science of ecology grows increasingly relativistic. With a few notable exceptions—Alfred W Crosby's work on the consequences of European expansion comes to mind—the broad brush stroke has been less common than the detailed miniature, and the case study remains the most typical form for the environmental historian, with localism and irony as its binding forces. Localism and irony ought to have special appeal to historians ofthe South. Recent studies that place southern cultures in a transformed and transforming environmental context include Jack Temple Kirby's enchanting Poquosin: A Study of Rural Landscape and Society, John Barry's dramatic Rising Tide: The GreatMississippi Flood of192J and How It ChangedAmerica, Harvey H. Jackson's nostalgic Rivers of Reviews 97 History: Life on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Cahaba, and Jeffrey K. Stine's technically sophisticated and deeply researched Mixing the Waters: Environment, Politics, andthe Building ofthe Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. To the same bookshelfMart A. Stewart has now added "WhatNature Suffers to Groe": Ufe, Labor, andlandscape on the Georgia Coast, 1680-1920. Stewart's subject is the Georgia tidewater, with its sea islands and its small tidal rivers such as the Savannah and the Altamaha. The history of European settlement in the region provides the author a built-in source ofirony. No other colony of England was so carefully planned to be one kind of society, and none more drastically reversed its course after the environment and human nature cooperated to destroy the hopes of Georgia's philanthropic founders. James Oglethorpe, along with his colleagues among the Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America, mixed contemporary social engineering with bad meteorology and simple ignorance of colonial soil conditions to foist upon the new colony a model ofhigh-minded error. Beginning in the 17 5os slavery supplemented and to some extent replaced free labor, a few plantations succeeded where many yeoman farmers had failed, and inequality in landholdings replaced the equal plots that the planners had traced out on Georgia's variable soil. Stewart's major emphasis is on the rice industry in the Georgia tidewater, though he also notes the different worlds created by the growing of sea-island cotton and sugar cane. Although the ubiquitous steam engine appeared at plantation mills in the nineteenth century, the rice industry originally represented an ingenious manipulation of nature by art and force rather than by science and technology. The practiced eye of the planter, the overseer, and the drivers, and the disciplined labor of the slaves, governed the interplay of changing water levels and salinity gradients: an exotic plant was successfully rooted and grown in a new setting for commercial purposes. Within the plantations, the African American slave culture developed a different and less domineering relationship to nature, one based on kitchen gardening and pot hunting, and in general a live-and-let-live philosophy embodied in the animal tales of Buh Bear and Buh Rabbit. Despite the slaves' ability to create a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 97-99
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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