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Moments of Despair
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Silkenat argues that the Civil War forced North Carolinians to re-evaluate the meaning of suicide, divorce, and debt, and that the nature of this reinterpretation was predicated on race. The Civil War changed how both white and black North Carolinians understood their place in society and the claims that society had upon them. For whites, this entailed a shift from a world which individuals were tightly bound to their local community to one in which they were increasingly untethered from social ties. For black North Carolinians, though, these trends headed in the opposite direction, as emancipation laid the groundwork for new bonds of community. Looking at these three actions, Silkenat identifies patterns that transformed American society. Silkenat argues that in two significant ways, how North Carolinians understood these three actions differed from broader patterns of social change. First, the attitudes toward these cultural practices changed more abruptly and rapidly in the South than in the rest of American society. Second, North Carolinians understood suicide, divorce, and debt through a prism of race, something that was not a vital consideration in the national discourse on these subjects. As a result, North Carolinians interpreted these three actions with racial meanings.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright Page
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-viii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-6
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  1. Part I: By His Own Hand: Suicide
  2. pp. 7-10
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  1. 1. Most Horrible of Crimes: Suicide in the Old South
  2. pp. 11-22
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  1. 2. The Self-Slaying Epidemic: Suicide after the Civil War
  2. pp. 23-52
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  1. 3. The Legacy of the War We Suppose: Suicide in Medical and Social Thought
  2. pp. 53-70
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  1. Part II: To Loosen the Bands of Society: Divorce
  2. pp. 71-74
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  1. 4. The Country Is Also a Party: Antebellum Divorce in Black and White
  2. pp. 75-94
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  1. 5. Connubial Bliss until He Entered the Army by Conscription: Civil War and Divorce
  2. pp. 95-112
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  1. 6. The Divorce Mill Runs Over Time: Marital Breakdown and Reform in the New South
  2. pp. 113-136
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  1. Part III: Enslaved by Debt: The Culture of Credit and Debt
  2. pp. 137-140
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  1. 7. Sacredness of Obligations: Debt in Antebellum North Carolina
  2. pp. 141-158
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  1. 8. Out of Debt before I Die: The Credit Crisis of the Civil War
  2. pp. 159-172
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  1. 9. What the Landlord and the Storeman Choose to Make It: General Stores, Pawnshops, and Boardinghouses in the New South
  2. pp. 173-204
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  1. 10. Nothing Less than a Question of Slavery or Freedom: Populism and the Crisis of Debt in the New South
  2. pp. 205-216
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  1. Conclusion
  2. pp. 217-220
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  1. Appendix: Methodological Problems in Studying the History of Suicide
  2. pp. 221-224
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 225-258
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 259-290
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 291-296
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