March 26, 2013
Cameron B. Strang
Geology, Slavery, and Sectionalism in the 1830s Gulf South
Chemical Heritage Foundation, Brown Bag Lecture | Visit site »
Location: Chemical Heritage Foundation
Slavery was central to the work and theories of geologists in the 1830s Gulf South. Planters and their wives patronized geological expeditions, slaves collected fossils that redefined the continent’s geohistory, and the plantation economy generated networks that made field work and the circulation of specimens possible. More important, geological theories produced in the Gulf South justified and encouraged plantation slavery. This talk looks specifically at a theory of the Earth that incorporated contemporary understandings of geohistory to fashion a proslavery argument while also suggesting how planters could engineer the Gulf South’s geological structure to make the region’s environment more like those of Caribbean sugar islands. In contrast to historians who have used the writings of northern geologists to explore the relationships between science, religion, and society in the United States on the whole, this paper emphasizes that early American geology developed in a highly sectional context.
Cameron B. Strang is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently completing his dissertation, “Entangled Knowledge, Expanding Nation: Science and the United States Empire in the Southeast Borderlands, 1783–1842.” He is currently a fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and has received support from the Library of Congress, the National Science Foundation, and the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science.