100 books like The Peculiar Institution

By Kenneth M. Stampp,

Here are 100 books that The Peculiar Institution fans have personally recommended if you like The Peculiar Institution. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of American Slavery, American Freedom

Leonard L. Richards Author Of The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780--1860

From my list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm now retired. But like many historians of my generation, I've been lucky. Having gone to the University of California when there was no tuition and got through graduate school thanks to the GI Bill, I then taught history for five decades, briefly at San Francisco State College and the University of Hawaii, and for a long stretch at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During those years, I wrote eight books, one was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and three won prizes—the Albert J. Beverage Award in 1970, the second-place Lincoln Prize in 2001, and the Langum Trust Prize in 2015. All but one deal with slavery and power.

Leonard's book list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics

Leonard L. Richards Why did Leonard love this book?

How did the Virginia slaveholders somehow become the most celebrated spokesmen for “liberty” and “equality” in the Revolutionary Era even though they all owned hundreds of slaves? Morgan contends that to understand this paradox one has to go back to 17th-century colonial Virginia where American slavery and American freedom emerged together. Moreover, argues Morgan, those days not only had a profound effect on the American Revolution and the Early Republic, but on everything that has happened since.

By Edmund S. Morgan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked American Slavery, American Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the American Revolution, Virginians were the most eloquent spokesmen for freedom and quality. George Washington led the Americans in battle against British oppression. Thomas Jefferson led them in declaring independence. Virginians drafted not only the Declaration but also the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; they were elected to the presidency of the United States under that Constitution for thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of its existence. They were all slaveholders. In the new preface Edmund S. Morgan writes: "Human relations among us still suffer from the former enslavement of a large portion of our predecessors. The freedom…


Book cover of Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution: Ten Essays

Leonard L. Richards Author Of The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780--1860

From my list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm now retired. But like many historians of my generation, I've been lucky. Having gone to the University of California when there was no tuition and got through graduate school thanks to the GI Bill, I then taught history for five decades, briefly at San Francisco State College and the University of Hawaii, and for a long stretch at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During those years, I wrote eight books, one was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and three won prizes—the Albert J. Beverage Award in 1970, the second-place Lincoln Prize in 2001, and the Langum Trust Prize in 2015. All but one deal with slavery and power.

Leonard's book list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics

Leonard L. Richards Why did Leonard love this book?

This book is a corrective. For over two hundred years Americans have been taught that enlightened slaveholders—and especially Jefferson and Madison—were initially the main champions of liberty and equality. But was that truly what happened? This book offers a different take on that story, and in my mind it deserves more attention than it has received.

By Staughton Lynd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Class Conflict, Slavery, and the United States Constitution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We sell Rare, out-of-print, uncommon, & used BOOKS, PRINTS, MAPS, DOCUMENTS, AND EPHEMERA. We do not sell ebooks, print on demand, or other reproduced materials. Each item you see here is individually described and imaged. We welcome further inquiries.


Book cover of Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson

Leonard L. Richards Author Of The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780--1860

From my list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm now retired. But like many historians of my generation, I've been lucky. Having gone to the University of California when there was no tuition and got through graduate school thanks to the GI Bill, I then taught history for five decades, briefly at San Francisco State College and the University of Hawaii, and for a long stretch at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During those years, I wrote eight books, one was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and three won prizes—the Albert J. Beverage Award in 1970, the second-place Lincoln Prize in 2001, and the Langum Trust Prize in 2015. All but one deal with slavery and power.

Leonard's book list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics

Leonard L. Richards Why did Leonard love this book?

This book also deserves more attention than it has received. And it, too, is a corrective. Taking to task a host of biographers and historians who have pretended that the “founding fathers” were blind to slavery and that slavery was a secondary issue in 1787, Finkleman contends that slavery was always a major bone of contention. Moreover, contends Finkelman, Thomas Jefferson was anything but an antislavery man. Instead, he was on the proslavery and anti-Black side in most controversies.

By Paul Finkelman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Slavery and the Founders, Paul Finkelman addresses a central issue of the American founding: how the first generation of leaders of the United States dealt with the profoundly important question of human bondage. The book explores the tension between the professed idea of America as stated in the Declaration of Independence, and the reality of the early American republic, reminding us of the profound and disturbing ways that slavery affected the U.S. Constitution and early American politics. It also offers the most important and detailed short critique of Thomas Jefferson's relationship to slavery available, while at the same time…


Book cover of American Taxation, American Slavery

Leonard L. Richards Author Of The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780--1860

From my list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm now retired. But like many historians of my generation, I've been lucky. Having gone to the University of California when there was no tuition and got through graduate school thanks to the GI Bill, I then taught history for five decades, briefly at San Francisco State College and the University of Hawaii, and for a long stretch at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During those years, I wrote eight books, one was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and three won prizes—the Albert J. Beverage Award in 1970, the second-place Lincoln Prize in 2001, and the Langum Trust Prize in 2015. All but one deal with slavery and power.

Leonard's book list on why slaveholders once dominated American politics

Leonard L. Richards Why did Leonard love this book?

How did the United States get the tax system we all hate? How did “trickle-down economics” come into being? And how do some billionaires get away without paying taxes? Much of all this, contends Einhorn, should be blamed on the nation’s leading slaveholders—and especially clever men like James Madison—who ran the country before the Civil War. And in this brilliant book, Einhorn explains how and why it was done. 

By Robin L. Einhorn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Taxation, American Slavery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In "American Taxation, American Slavery", Robin Einhorn shows the deep, broad, and continuous influence of slavery on America's fear and loathing of taxes. From the earliest colonial times right up to the Civil War, slaveholding elites feared strong and democratic government as a threat to the institution of slavery. Einhorn reveals how the heated battles over taxation, the power to tax, and the distribution of tax burdens were rooted not in debates over personal liberty but rather in the rights of slaveholders to hold human beings as property. Along the way, she exposes the antidemocratic origins of the enduringly popular…


Book cover of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

William C. Davis Author Of An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government

From my list on the politics of the Confederacy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find the early days of the Confederacy to be fascinating, a chance to look at Americans in the act of nation-making while surrounded by fear and crisis. Far more than in the convention of 1776, this episode offers sources that allow us to look inside their motives, and to evaluate them both as impractical rebels, and social and political idealists [albeit their idealism was always encased within the confines of a slave society]. Having written biographies of Jefferson Davis, Alexander H Stephens, Robert Toombs, and other Confederate politicians, this subject is a natural object of my interest. While I do not at all agree with or endorse the political measures they took in the secession crisis, I can feel some empathy for them and their people who felt themselves caught in a no-win position, facing [in their view] the possible destruction of their economy, society, and culture.

William's book list on the politics of the Confederacy

William C. Davis Why did William love this book?

This new 2020 book is a fresh synthesis of the scholarly work that has been done on secession and the young Confederacy in the past 30 years and has much that is new to offer  Its treatment of the weeks in Montgomery is rather brief, but insightful, and overall it makes a fine introduction to the political life of the CSA.

By William L. Barney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebels in the Making as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Regardless of whether they owned slaves, Southern whites lived in a world defined by slavery. As shown by their blaming British and Northern slave traders for saddling them with slavery, most were uncomfortable with the institution. While many wanted it ended, most were content to leave that up to God. All that changed with the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Rebels in the Making is a narrative-driven history of how and why secession occurred. In this work, senior Civil War historian William L. Barney narrates the explosion of the sectional conflict into secession and civil war. Carefully examining the events in…


Book cover of Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics

Mary E. Stuckey Author Of Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump

From my list on why American politics are terrible and what to do.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe in democracy. I think the US has the opportunity to be the world’s first multicultural and inclusive democracy. And I think that’s a very, very hard thing to do. I’ve been writing about democracy through the lens of presidential history my whole career, and I think the US has done some things so impressively well while at the same time it frustratingly keeps failing to live up to its own ideals. The tensions and contradictions in our history as we try to expand and enact those ideas are endlessly fascinating. And I’m nervous that we may be seeing the end of a national commitment to democracy. 

Mary's book list on why American politics are terrible and what to do

Mary E. Stuckey Why did Mary love this book?

I love this book because it’s political science at its best; it uses a lot of great data to study how history affects us in the present; it shows us how hard change is and also what makes it possible. It’s depressing and hopeful and super smart. It’s social science but it’s also very readable.

By Avidit Acharyo, Matthew Blackwell, Maya Sen

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The lasting effects of slavery on contemporary political attitudes in the American South

Despite dramatic social transformations in the United States during the last 150 years, the South has remained staunchly conservative. Southerners are more likely to support Republican candidates, gun rights, and the death penalty, and southern whites harbor higher levels of racial resentment than whites in other parts of the country. Why haven't these sentiments evolved? Deep Roots shows that the entrenched views of white southerners are a direct consequence of the region's slaveholding history. Today, southern whites who live in areas once reliant on slavery-compared to areas…


Book cover of Uncle Tom's Cabin

John J. Miller Author Of The First Assassin

From my list on the American Civil War and 5 novels to immerse yourself within it.

Why am I passionate about this?

John J. Miller is director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, a writer for National Review, and the host of two book-themed podcasts, The Great Books and The Bookmonger. His books include The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football and Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas. He lives on a dirt road in rural Michigan.

John's book list on the American Civil War and 5 novels to immerse yourself within it

John J. Miller Why did John love this book?

“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said when he met Stowe. The quote may be apocryphal, but it points to a truth about the 1852 novel that shaped American opinions about the cruelty and injustice of slavery. The writing is a bit melodramatic for modern sensibilities, but it’s hard to beat the scene in which the escaped slave Eliza tries to carry her young son across an icy river for freedom on the other side.

By Harriet Beecher Stowe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Uncle Tom's Cabin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most powerful and enduring work of art ever written about American slavery"-Alfred Kazin

"To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom's cabin may...prove a startling experience"-Edmund Wilson

In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe created America's first black literary hero as well as the nation's antecedent protest novel. The novel's vast influence on attitudes towards African American slavery was considered an incitation towards the American Civil War; conjointly, its powerful anti-slavery message resonated with readers around the world at its time of publication.

With unashamed sentimentality and expressions of faith, Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle…


Book cover of The Water Dancer

Raven Maragh-Lloyd Author Of Black Networked Resistance: Strategic Rearticulations in the Digital Age

From my list on internet activism (hint: the kids are actually alright).

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about race and technology, and specifically the histories of Black folks as they influence online activities, from memes and community-building to care networks and activist efforts. I use theory, research, and most importantly lived experiences to tell the story of Black digital practices. The books I choose here represent how diverse my thinking is when it comes to this topic: from fiction to non-fiction, these works are as fluid yet meaningful as I think identity is, on and offline.

Raven's book list on internet activism (hint: the kids are actually alright)

Raven Maragh-Lloyd Why did Raven love this book?

I bought this book thinking it would be a whimsical read and a fun departure from my non-fiction, academic world. Fast forward a few years, and I have consistently used this book in my teaching of university students in my Digital Cultures classes.

The book might not seem like it’s about the Internet, but the spiritual, inter-generational elements of the story are easily connected to the hopeful stories we see time and again of Black folks online.

By Ta-Nehisi Coates,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Water Dancer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES #1 BESTSELLER

OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK

'One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. I haven't felt this way since I first read Beloved . . .' Oprah Winfrey

Lose yourself in the stunning debut novel everyone is talking about - the unmissable historical story of injustice and redemption that resonates powerfully today

Hiram Walker is a man with a secret, and a war to win. A war for the right to life, to family, to freedom.

Born into bondage on a Virginia plantation, he is also born gifted with a…


Book cover of Soul Catcher

Robert J. Begiebing Author Of The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

From my list on British and American historical fiction, 1850-1960.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of ten books, including fiction, memoir, collected journalism, and criticism. My novels are historical fiction, hence my decision to make my recommendations within that genre, mostly. My own historical novels comprise a tetralogy beginning with The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin and ending with The Turner Erotica, so the series takes the reader roughly from 1648 to 1900. The second book chronologically in the series, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction, won the 2003 Langum Prize for historical fiction. Retired now, I was the founding director of the MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University.

Robert's book list on British and American historical fiction, 1850-1960

Robert J. Begiebing Why did Robert love this book?

This historical novel is set just before the American Civil War. What singles it out is not the theme—the struggle of an African American slave and mother, Rosetta, for her freedom. More unusual is White’s courageous depiction of the full yet flawed humanity of her slave (“soul”) catcher, Augustus Cain, as Rosetta flees her inhumane conditions in Virginia enroute to Boston. Cain is one of the best at what he does, but the journey both characters endure also brings both toward mutual compassion and redemption. Though published in 2007, the book fits perfectly into, and helps to amplify further, our current awakening to our historical racism and the vast suffering white Americans have inflicted on their Black brothers and sisters. 

By Michael C. White,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Augustus Cain is a man with his back against the wall. A war-scarred wanderer, he faces a past he wants to forget, a present without prospect or fortune, and an uncertain future marred by the loss of his most prized possession - his horse - which he has carelessly gambled away. But he is not without skill - he has an uncanny, if unwelcome, ability to track the most elusive runaway slaves. And to repay a debt and keep his horse, he must head north from Virginia and retrieve a runaway named Rosetta. When he eventually runs Rosetta to ground…


Book cover of Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War

Kevin M. Levin Author Of Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth

From my list on slavery and the confederacy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and educator based in Boston. I have authored three books and numerous essays on the Civil War era. You can find my op-eds in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Daily Beast. Over the past few years, I have worked with students and teachers across the country to better understand the current controversy surrounding Confederate monuments.

Kevin's book list on slavery and the confederacy

Kevin M. Levin Why did Kevin love this book?

This slim volume packs a mean punch. Following the secession of the seven Deep Southern states in 1860-61, commissioners were sent out to the remaining uncommitted slaveholding states to convince their leaders of the necessity of joining the new Confederate States of America. While the arguments of these secession commissioners included constitutional arguments in favor of secession, they relied even more so on emotional pleas that framed the election of the nation’s first Republican president as a direct threat to the institution of slavery and white supremacy. Their speeches were laced with horrific images of emancipation and a region plunged into racial violence. Charles Dew offers a compelling argument that highlights the importance of slavery and race in the outbreak of war.

By Charles B. Dew,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Charles Dew's Apostles of Disunion has established itself as a modern classic and an indispensable account of the Southern states' secession from the Union. Addressing topics still hotly debated among historians and the public at large more than a century and a half after the Civil War, the book offers a compelling and clearly substantiated argument that slavery and race were at the heart of our great national crisis. The fifteen years since the original publication of Apostles of Disunion have seen an intensification of debates surrounding the Confederate flag and Civil War monuments. In a powerful new afterword to…


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