An Environmental Biography of a Southern Plantation, 1780-1880
Publication Year: 2007
Nelson follows the fortunes of Pharsalia's owners, telling how Virginia's traditional extensive agriculture contributed to the soil's erosion and exhaustion. Subsequent attempts to balance independence and sustainability through a complex system of crop rotation and resource recycling ultimately gave way to an intensive, slave-based form of agricultural capitalism.
Pharsalia could not support the Massies' aristocratic ambitions, and it was eventually parceled up and sold off by family members. The farm's story embodies several fundamentals of modern U.S. environmental thought. Southerners' nineteenth-century quest for financial and ecological independence provided the background for conservationists' attempts to save family farming. At the same time, farmers' failure to achieve independence while maximizing profits and crop yields drove them to seek government aid and regulation. These became some of the hallmarks of conservation efforts in the New Deal and beyond.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
List of Maps
With Pharsalia: An Environmental Biography of a Southern Plantatio, 1780-1880, we are pleased to inaugurate a new book series, "Environmental History and the American South." It is a superb volume with...
In a slight departure from tradition, I want first to thank my family for making this work possible. My parents were both professors of history, and they raised me with a deep love of the discipline, the excitement of research...
INTRODUCTION. The Soils of Old Virginia
Hugh Hammond Bennett, founder of the Soil Conservation Service and one of America's leading twentieth-century conservationists, liked to tell a story about his first experience with the agricultural and environmental...
One: Property Lines and Power before Pharsalia, 1738-1796
Pharsalia plantation had two sets of "parents." The first were southerners: Maj. Thomas Massie, the wealthy Virginia planter who purchased the land from which Pharsalia was made and moved his family and his slaves...
Two: Independence and the Birth of Pharsalia, 1796-1830
In creating Pharsalia, the Massies intensified the agricultural ecology of the triangle much more than the man they had bought out, John Rose. Their farming sprang, however, from the same gentry culture that had...
Three: Pharsalia's Ecological Crisis, 1828-1848
During the 1830s and 1840s, the problems practical planters encountered when building the double-cycle in the south Atlantic nearly overwhelmed Pharsalia plantation. William Massie had hoped that the agricultural system pushed...
Four: Capitalism and Conservation at Pharsalia, 1848-1862
As the double-cycle fell apart during the mid-1840s, William Massie took bold measures to raise the productivity of Pharsalia's agricultural ecosystem. He abandoned his pursuit of ecological independence and brought...
Five: The Gentry Family and the Fall of Pharsalia, 1861-1889
Pharsalia was in its prime in the years leading up to the Civil War. Capitalist intensification had helped the plantation escape its ecological crisis and achieve a measure of profit and stability. Yet as William Massie's life...
EPILOGUE. Mourning Pharsalia
In the mid-1930s, the Virginia Writers' Project, an offshoot of the Works Progress Administration, undertook the Virginia Historical Inventory (VHI). The VHI sent fieldworkers across the Old Dominion to write up...
Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 12 b&w photos, 4 maps
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Environmental History and the American South
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