Catalogue


Ruffin : family and reform in the Old South /
David F. Allmendinger, Jr.
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
description
xiv, 274 p., [6] p. of plates : ill.
ISBN
0195044150 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
isbn
0195044150 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
746404
 
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1990-09:
Antebellum Tidewater Virginia provides the background for this study of Edmund Ruffin. Orphaned at 15, he attended William and Mary, served in the War of 1812, inherited his grandfather's farm at Coggin's Point on the James River, and subsequently married Susan Travis. The couple had 11 children, an anomaly among otherwise unprolific generations of Ruffins. Faced with a growing family and infertile farmland, he introduced carbonate of lime (called marl) into the soil, increasing its fertility. However, without slave labor marl could not be dug, hauled to fields, and carefully distributed on "barren" land. Thus Ruffin emerged as an apologist for scientific land management and for the necessity of slave labor to revitalize fertility of Southern farms. He preferred experimentation and writing to actual farm work, and he attempted to spend time editing farm journals and publishing scientific essays. Sickness, family deaths, and the Civil War frustrated the plans of this increasingly eccentric, intellectual champion of states' rights, and, in a calculated protest, Ruffin committed suicide two months after the war ended rather than submit to federal authority. Allmendinger marshals his facts and interpretations well within a smoothly flowing narrative. Notes; illustrations. College, university, and public libraries. -J. D. Born Jr., Wichita State University
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Imaginative....A sensitive and dispassionate portrayal of an important but controversial figure. Basing his study on careful, systematic research in an awesome array of sources, Allmendinger provides much more information on Ruffin's family and early life than any previous writer, includinghis two biographers, and in the process demonstrates a greater understanding of Ruffin's ideas and values than any historian since Craven....Characterized by meticulous research, impeccably accurate citations, clear expository prose, restrained judgments, and imaginative analysis, this book is anexample of how history should be written."--Agricultural History
"In this well-researched and intelligent book, the intersection between the public and private becomes the central theme in interpreting the life of Edmund Ruffin."--The Journal of American History
"A thoughtful, engrossing study....The insights of this fresh look at Ruffin are rewarding."--Georgia Historical Review
"A unique opportunity to enter into a mind of the South, a mind shaped by memories of death and isolation....Add[s] greatly to our understanding of several issues that still fascinate students of the Old South, not least those wishing to identify the workings of the southern mind."--SouthCarolina Historical Magazine
"A model study of the family in the antebellum period, of attempts to lead the intellectual life in the Old South, and of the sense of selfhood, especially the meaning of independence, which developed among males in a slaveholding society."--Virginia Quarterly Review
"A fascinating portrait of the private Edmund Ruffin."--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
"A fascinating study that alters many of our interpretations of Ruffin....Both scholars and general readers will appreciate this well written, smoothly flowing account that combines a skillful narrative with provocative analysis....Allmendinger successfully combines social and intellectualhistory to provide an excellent biography."--The Alabama Review
"Allemendinger skillfully pulls apart threads that made up Ruffin's career and disaggregates the changes Ruffin and his writing underwent as his life progressed....Cleverly examining the rise and fall of Cocke's godson, [Allemendinger] has given us a model study of the family in the antebellumperiod, attempts to lead the intellectual life in the Old South, and he sense of selfhood, especially the meaning of independence, which developed among males in slaveholding society."--Virginia Quarterly Review
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, September 1990
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Summaries
Long Description
This is a fascinating combination of intellectual and social history focusing on the life and thought of Edmund Ruffin, a 19th-century reformer whose activities in the movement for secession made him a symbol of the antebellum South. Although much has been written about Ruffin, this is the first examination of the connections between his family life, his thought, and his career in reform. Allmendinger shows, through careful analysis of Ruffin's personal papers, how Ruffin's family history informed his thinking and writing. His early experiences of isolation contributed to his valuable discoveries about soil fertility, which in turn guided his notion of a reconstruction of the rural Southeast led by individuals possessing the mentality of scientific farmers. Without this rejuvenation and fundamental restructuring of institutions, Ruffin believed, the southeastern United States would be faced with a Malthusian crisis of subsistence which would lead to the complete dissolution of the social system. An insightful analysis of the experiences of this influential thinker, Allmendinger's study offers a unique perspective on life in the antebellum South.
Main Description
This is a fascinating combination of intellectual and social history focusing on the life and thought of Edmund Ruffin, a 19th-century reformer whose activities in the movement for secession made him a symbol of the antebellum South. Although much has been written about Ruffin, this is thefirst examination of the connections between his family life, his thought, and his career in reform. Allmendinger shows, through careful analysis of Ruffin's personal papers, how Ruffin's family history informed his thinking and writing. His early experiences of isolation contributed to hisvaluable discoveries about soil fertility, which in turn guided his notion of a reconstruction of the rural Southeast led by individuals possessing the mentality of scientific farmers. Without this rejuvenation and fundamental restructuring of institutions, Ruffin believed, the southeastern UnitedStates would be faced with a Malthusian crisis of subsistence which would lead to the complete dissolution of the social system. An insightful analysis of the experiences of this influential thinker, Allmendinger's study offers a unique perspective on life in the antebellum South.

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