Around the Press in 80 Books: Origins of the New South, 1877-1913

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Executive Editor Rand Dotson writes about Origins of the New South, 1877-1913.

Origins of the New SouthAt some point in his or her academic career, every southern historian encounters C. Vann Woodward’s Origins of the New South, 1877-1913. It stands sixty-four years after its publication as one of the cornerstones of southern historiography; a book that all scholarship on the modern south addresses in some fashion or another. They all read it, and if they are like me, they leave its 654 pages a little awed by the breadth of Woodward’s accomplishments, not the least of which is his recasting the post-war South as a place that few historians before him would have recognized. It is a book that today is so iconic and influential that no one even feels the need to use its full title, they just call it Origins.

Published in 1951 as volume 9 in LSU Press’s “A History of the South” series, Origins of the New South won the prestigious Bancroft Prize from Columbia University the following year. Reviewers hailed it as one of the finest books on American history that would be published in the twentieth century as well as a work that would force historians to rewrite much of the South’s history, praise that in both cases turned out to be entirely true. In it, Woodward rightfully and trenchantly assails the very notion of a New South, casting the transformations of the period not as progress, but as one of the ultimate swindles in U.S. history. He destroys myths that long needed destroying, and he does so with the sort of verve and wit that makes the book seem ageless. At LSU Press, we consider Origins among the most treasured jewels of our long backlist; a title that is emblematic of why university publishing matters.

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