Cover: Divided Mastery: Slave Hiring in the American South, from Harvard University PressCover: Divided Mastery in HARDCOVER

Divided Mastery

Slave Hiring in the American South

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$77.00 • £66.95 • €70.95

ISBN 9780674011496

Publication Date: 02/27/2004


256 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


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In the past three decades, historians of the American South have produced a body of acclaimed literature that has redefined our understanding of slavery and southern culture. Until now, however, there has been no recent in-depth analysis of slave hiring. Jonathan Martin’s Divided Mastery is an important effort to fill this void.—Christopher J. Olsen, Georgia Historical Quarterly

[Martin’s] book details the unique features of the practice, and in doing so provides a valuable reference for understanding this component of slavery.—Keith C. Barton, Journal of American Ethnic History

Historians have long recognized that slave hiring afforded masters various degrees of elasticity, adaptability, and flexibility in managing, ordering, and utilizing their bondsmen. Examining closely the rental of slaves from the perspectives of masters, slaves, and hirers, Martin underscores the ubiquity of slave hiring and how the practice both fostered and undermined slaveholding in the Old South… This well-researched study fills an important niche in slave historiography.—J. D. Smith, Choice

Martin has done more than fill an important niche in understanding slavery in the American South; his work adds an appreciation of the complexity of slavery by unraveling—in fine detail—precisely how the system of slave hiring worked. It reveals how the rental of slaves at once expanded and constrained the latitude of both master and slave, at times allowing slaveholders to gain greater flexibility and profit in the employment of their human property and permitting slaves to secure greater independence and control over their own lives. Divided Mastery is a significant addition to the literature on slavery in the U.S.—Ira Berlin, author of Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves

This finely crafted, thought-provoking study of slave hiring in the antebellum South fills a major gap in the historical literature. Divided Mastery will be of great interest to students of American slavery.—Peter Kolchin, author of American Slavery, 1619–1877

Divided Mastery greatly extends and systematizes our knowledge of slave hiring as a practice making slavery a more economically flexible institution. Martin also writes insightfully about the emotional and psychological complexities attending the interaction of slaves, owners, and hirers. This will be the standard reference for historians interested in slave hiring, and Martin’s vigorous prose style should attract a wider readership as well for this fine new book.—T. Stephen Whitman, author of Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 1775–1865

Awards & Accolades

  • 2004 Bennett H. Wall Award, Southern Historical Association

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