Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Enterprising AmericaBusinesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226261621

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226261768.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of
date: 14 December 2017

Were Antebellum Cotton Plantations Factories in the Field?

Were Antebellum Cotton Plantations Factories in the Field?

Chapter:
(p.245) 7 Were Antebellum Cotton Plantations Factories in the Field?
Source:
Enterprising America
Author(s):

Alan L. Olmstead

Paul W. Rhode

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226261768.003.0008

Using census data, plantation records, and narrative evidence, we investigate whether the popular expression "factories in the field" appropriately characterizes antebellum cotton plantations. Based on micro-samples of farms, plantations, and manufacturing plants in 1859, we compare the size distributions and input mixes of operations. We inquire whether management practices on cotton plantations were closely aligned with those of modern business enterprises or with Taylor’s scientific management. We find that, by some measures, plantations were an intermediate form of enterprise located between the family farm and the contemporary factory, and in some ways, closer to the factory than to the farm. However, by other more important measures, plantations were very different from factories. We argue that the direct analogies between plantations and factories and labor systems employing modern management techniques obscure more than they reveal.

Keywords:   slavery, factory system, plantations, labor management, accounting, modern business enterprise

University Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .