100 books like Life on a Plantation

By Bobbie Kalman,

Here are 100 books that Life on a Plantation fans have personally recommended if you like Life on a Plantation. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery

Lori Benton Author Of Mountain Laurel

From my list on life in the Antebellum South.

Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little-known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, either set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultures collided, or amidst the conflict-laden setting of the southern plantation. Her novel, Mountain Laurel, begins an epic family saga that immerses readers in 1790s North Carolina plantation life and the moral dilemmas created by the evils of slavery.

Lori's book list on life in the Antebellum South

Lori Benton Why did Lori love this book?

Though it was wealthy white planters who built plantations, the enslaved people who worked them imbued these landscapes with their own meanings. With over 200 photographs and drawings of Antebellum plantations, Vlach leads readers on a tour of plantation outbuildings, providing examples of how slaves used these spaces despite—and in defiance of—their masters’ intentions. Testimonies of former slaves (drawn from the Federal Writers’ Project collection) give the reader a sense of what it was like to live and work in these settings.

By John Michael Vlach,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Back of the Big House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Behind the ""Big Houses"" of the antebellum South existed a different world, socially and architecturally, where slaves lived and worked. John Michael Vlach explores the structures and spaces that formed the slaves' environment. Through photographs and the words of former slaves, he portrays the plantation landscape from the slaves' own point of view. The plantation landscape was chiefly the creation of slaveholders, but Vlach argues convincingly that slaves imbued this landscape with their own meanings. Their subtle acts of appropriation constituted one of the more effective strategies of slave resistance and one that provided a locus for the formation of…


Book cover of Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South

Lori Benton Author Of Mountain Laurel

From my list on life in the Antebellum South.

Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little-known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, either set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultures collided, or amidst the conflict-laden setting of the southern plantation. Her novel, Mountain Laurel, begins an epic family saga that immerses readers in 1790s North Carolina plantation life and the moral dilemmas created by the evils of slavery.

Lori's book list on life in the Antebellum South

Lori Benton Why did Lori love this book?

This extensive and prize-winning narrative of Southern women’s daily existence in the antebellum era covers all the bases on this subject. With the following chapter titles, how could it not? Southern Women, Southern Households; The View from the Big House; Between Big House and Slave Community; Gender Conventions; Women Who Opposed Slavery; And Women Who Did Not. A must-read for anyone wishing to delve into the subject of women’s lives in the antebellum south.

By Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Within the Plantation Household as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Documenting the difficult class relations between women slaveholders and slave women, this study shows how class and race as well as gender shaped women's experiences and determined their identities. Drawing upon massive research in diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral histories, the author argues that the lives of antebellum southern women, enslaved and free, differed fundamentally from those of northern women and that it is not possible to understand antebellum southern women by applying models derived from New England sources. |A powerful historical study in which the author's use of letters, memoirs, oral histories, as well as extensive archival sources bring…


Book cover of Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies

Ida Flowers Author Of Jessie's Passion

From my list on everyday life in the Southern colonies.

Who am I?

Ever since I started reading the Little House series at the age of ten, I’ve been in love with women’s history. In college I had the opportunity to write a paper on the topic of my choice and I chose women of the American colonial period. I found that while our daily life is now very different, our feelings as women are much the same. The more primary sources I discovered, the more I could feel the fears, sorrows, and joys of the determined women who came before us, unwittingly creating records of their experiences in their correspondence and journals as they built homes and businesses from the raw, wild land.

Ida's book list on everyday life in the Southern colonies

Ida Flowers Why did Ida love this book?

Julia Cherry Spruill is herself a fascinating character, one who worked in her husband’s shadow most of her life, an academic wife, as it were, creating research methods for the decade-long project of examining women’s experiences in the New World. The book, after being published, was largely ignored for thirty years, until it was published in paperback at a time when women’s history was attaining status as an academic field. Women’s Life and Work is overflowing with details concerning women’s activities, clothing, food and drink, childbearing, and death, with personal anecdotes of their feelings about it all. 

By Julia Cherry Spruill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Out of a wealth of documentation, and often from the words of the people themselves, Spruill's account brings these women's lives out of the shadows-opening a usable past that was not there before.

In the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., it is "an important contribution to social history to which students will constantly turn."

Book cover of The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South

Lori Benton Author Of Mountain Laurel

From my list on life in the Antebellum South.

Who am I?

Lori Benton is an award-winning, multi-published author of historical novels set during 18th century North America. Her literary passion is bringing little-known historical events to life through the eyes of those who lived it, either set along the Appalachian frontier, where European and Native American cultures collided, or amidst the conflict-laden setting of the southern plantation. Her novel, Mountain Laurel, begins an epic family saga that immerses readers in 1790s North Carolina plantation life and the moral dilemmas created by the evils of slavery.

Lori's book list on life in the Antebellum South

Lori Benton Why did Lori love this book?

Another in-depth examination of the topic, this book focuses on the fifty-five years following the Revolutionary War, exploring the swift and sweeping changes in American society during this early Federal period and how they influenced the daily lives of planters’ wives. Clinton drew on hundreds of memoirs, diaries, and women’s letters to explore the issue of gender in antebellum Southern culture. This book makes a good follow up to Spruill’s work on the lives of Southern colonial era women.

By Catherine Clinton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Plantation Mistress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This pioneering study of the much-mythologized Southern belle offers the first serious look at the lives of white women and their harsh and restricted place in the slave society before the Civil War. Drawing on the diaries, letters, and memoirs of hundreds of planter wives and daughters, Clinton sets before us in vivid detail the daily life of the plantation mistress and her ambiguous intermediary position in the hierarchy between slave and master.

"The Plantation Mistress challenges and reinterprets a host of issues related to the Old South. The result is a book that forces us to rethink some of…


Book cover of Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World, 1450-1680

Ida Altman Author Of Life and Society in the Early Spanish Caribbean: The Greater Antilles, 1493-1550

From my list on what happened after Columbus got to the Caribbean.

Who am I?

Throughout my career as a historian I’ve been interested in the expansion of the Iberian world and its consequences for societies and cultures in Spain as well as Spanish America, especially Mexico. I knew that the Caribbean, the first site of European activity in the Americas, played an important role in that story, yet paradoxically it didn’t seem to receive much attention from historians, at least in the U.S. When I finally decided to focus my research on the period immediately following Columbus’s first voyages, I entered into a complex and dynamic world of danger, ambition, exploitation, and novelty. I hope to open that world to others in my book.

Ida's book list on what happened after Columbus got to the Caribbean

Ida Altman Why did Ida love this book?

Although not exclusively focused on the Caribbean, the articles in this volume illuminate the long and complex history of sugar production in the early modern Iberian world, beginning with the Iberian Peninsula itself and expanding into the Atlantic island groups and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and Brazil. The last article focuses on sugar production in seventeenth-century Barbados, underscoring that a long history of sugar cultivation preceded the better-known establishment of sugar production in the English and French islands. Here the reader will learn how sixteenth-century Europeans eagerly incorporated sugar into their cuisines and diet, at times consuming prodigious quantities. Together these articles present a fascinating and often surprising early history of a commodity that has had a huge impact on the world.

By Stuart B. Schwartz (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tropical Babylons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The idea that sugar, plantations, slavery, and capitalism were all present at the birth of the Atlantic world has long dominated scholarly thinking. In nine original essays by a multinational group of top scholars, Tropical Babylons re-evaluates this so-called ""sugar revolution,"" presenting a revisionist examination of the origins of society and economy in the Atlantic world. Focusing on areas colonized by Spain and Portugal, these essays show that despite reliance on common knowledge and technology, there were considerable variations in the way sugar was produced. With studies of Iberia, Madeira and the Canary Islands, Hispaniola, Cuba, Brazil, and Barbados, this…


Book cover of Island Beneath the Sea

Jada Benn Torres and  Gabriel A. Torres Colón Author Of Genetic Ancestry: Our Stories, Our Pasts

From my list on what happens when biology and culture collide.

Who are we?

We met as “baby anthropologists” in graduate school and have stuck together ever since. With Jada’s training in genetic anthropology and Gabriel’s training in cultural anthropology, we’ve accompanied each other to our various field sites throughout the Caribbean, Spain, and the US Midwest. Aside from our book, each of us has authored many peer-reviewed publications, including an award-winning article in the journal Human Biology. Though we both have our own independent research agendas, our interests overlap on several topics including genetic ancestry. Our different anthropological training and our mutual love for our discipline always makes for interesting perspectives on a variety of topics.

Jada's book list on what happens when biology and culture collide

Jada Benn Torres and  Gabriel A. Torres Colón Why did Jada love this book?

This recommendation is a work of fiction. Overall, Allende is an incredible storyteller whose characters seem so real that by the end of the book, you feel like you know them in the same way you know family or an old friend. Island Beneath the Sea, set in 18th - 19th century Haiti then in New Orleans, is a story that illustrates the beautiful messes we create in our lives through those that we love and those that we hate. Drawing on the chaos of American slavery and the Haitian Revolution, Allende’s book draws on themes related to slavery, politics, history, and family drama all of which illustrate what can happen when cultural values (i.e. social constructions of race) are attached to specific bodies (i.e. Black and White women).

By Isabel Allende,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Island Beneath the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the sugar plantations of Saint-Domingue to the lavish parlors of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, Isabel Allende's latest novel tells the story of a mulatta woman, a slave and concubine, determined to take control of her own destiny in a society where that would seem impossible.

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue - now known as Haiti -Tete is the product of violent union between an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage.

When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it's…


Book cover of Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713

Raymond A. Saraceni Author Of Off the Beach in the Caribbean: Travels in the Little Leeward Islands

From my list on accompaning your Caribbean Sojourn.

Who am I?

Over the years, I have had the good fortune to visit various ports of call through the eastern Caribbean and have been struck repeatedly not by the sameness but by the diversity of things and people. I also began to lament that those who visit the islands are encouraged to do so as vacationers rather than as travelers – to borrow a binary from the great Paul Bowles. Encountering a place with any sense of generosity necessitates reading about it, and while the titles I have included here represent some of those that I have found most rewarding and exciting, the full list is as long and varied as the archipelago of islands itself.           

Raymond's book list on accompaning your Caribbean Sojourn

Raymond A. Saraceni Why did Raymond love this book?

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that modern historical scholarship focused upon the West Indies begins with Richard S. Dunn’s Sugar and Slaves. Blazing a trail that nearly all subsequent scholars in the field continue to travel, Dunn’s work brings a materialist and statistical awareness to the study of Caribbean history. Though this may sound like a recipe for aridity, the results are anything but dry. In his analysis of medical records, census data, mortality rates, and summaries of plantation inventories, Dunn opens up a picture of the English West Indies not as a society with slaves, but as a true slave society – one dominated by an institution that consumed countless lives with breathtaking indifference (and whose legacy continues to haunt the region today).  

By Richard S. Dunn,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sugar and Slaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published by UNC Press in 1972, Sugar and Slaves presents a vivid portrait of English life in the Caribbean more than three centuries ago. Using a host of contemporary primary sources, Richard Dunn traces the development of plantation slave society in the region. He examines sugar production techniques, the vicious character of the slave trade, the problems of adapting English ways to the tropics, and the appalling mortality rates for both blacks and whites that made these colonies the richest, but in human terms the least successful, in English America.


Book cover of The Known World

Xolani Kacela Author Of Stop Anxiety In Its Tracks

From my list on a deep understanding of human nature.

Who am I?

I have a passion for helping people realize they are only limited by their imagination. By dreaming wildly and acting on one’s dreams, a person can achieve highly unlikely outcomes. People are born to be free and pursue the things in life that make them happy and fulfilled. However, people need education, training, and mentoring. I am driven to do each of these to help others live fulfilling and purposeful lives. My expertise arises from my formal training and applied life lessons acquired from modeling highly-gifted teachers and friends.

Xolani's book list on a deep understanding of human nature

Xolani Kacela Why did Xolani love this book?

This book is so special in its depiction of human beings striving for survival.

It is the only book that shows African American as slaveholders. The charm is the clarity with which Jones writes. His gift is the ability to say complex things simply. He made me strive to be a better writer. His story helped me feel deeply in ways I had not previously known I could feel.

By Edward P. Jones,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Known World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Masterful, Pulitzer-prize winning literary epic about the painful and complex realities of slave life on a Southern plantation. An utterly original exploration of race, trust and the cruel truths of human nature, this is a landmark in modern American literature.

Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, becomes proprietor of his own plantation - as well as his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery…


Book cover of The French Sugar Business in the Eighteenth Century

Pernille Røge Author Of Economistes and the Reinvention of Empire: France in the Americas and Africa, C.1750-1802

From my list on France and Its eighteenth-century colonial empire.

Who am I?

I have been interested in the study of the early modern French colonial empire since my undergraduate years in Paris. As a Dane studying history in the French capital, I was struck by the strong presence of both Caribbean and African cultures in my local neighborhood, but I also noted the fraught colonial legacies that continued to condition the lives of many of its inhabitants. My book is an effort to grapple with a particularly transformative moment in the history of France’s imperial past and to reflect on the ways in which it conditioned later periods. The five books I recommended here brought home to me important aspects of this history in ways that insist on the reciprocal influences among France and its former colonies.

Pernille's book list on France and Its eighteenth-century colonial empire

Pernille Røge Why did Pernille love this book?

This book offers a lucid and very accessible study of the nuts and bolts of the eighteenth-century French sugar business. Readers get a clear understanding of the key aspects of the enterprise that made France the main sugar exporter in the world – from how it was financed, to how it relied on African slave labor, to its cultivation in the Caribbean sugar plantations. It also offers one of the best discussions of the local French domestic industries involved in the sugar business.

Book cover of Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Matteo Binasco Author Of Making, Breaking and Remaking the Irish Missionary Network: Ireland, Rome and the West Indies in the Seventeenth Century

From my list on to understand early-modern period Atlantic world.

Who am I?

This is and will remain the example of historical research made by one of the leading authorities in the field of Atlantic history. Elliott’s book set the agenda by investigating and assessing the complex array of causes and consequences which brought England and Spain to have an ever-lasting cultural, economic, political, and religious influence on the history of North America and Latin America.  

Matteo's book list on to understand early-modern period Atlantic world

Matteo Binasco Why did Matteo love this book?

This book is the best analysis written by the forerunner of Atlantic history in Ireland. Based on an astonishing amount of literary and historical sources, it is an outstanding insight into the complex and lengthy process of English colonization of Ireland set within the broader Atlantic and European context. 

By Nicholas Canny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Ireland British, 1580-1650 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first comprehensive study of all the plantations that were attempted in Ireland during the years 1580-1650. It examines the arguments advanced by successive political figures for a plantation policy, and the responses which this policy elicited from different segments of the population in Ireland.

The book opens with an analysis of the complete works of Edmund Spenser who was the most articulate ideologue for plantation. The author argues that all subsequent advocates of plantation, ranging from King James VI and I, to Strafford, to Oliver Cromwell, were guided by Spenser's opinions, and that discrepancies between plantation in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in plantations, the Antebellum South, and homeschooling?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about plantations, the Antebellum South, and homeschooling.

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