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The Southern Political Tradition

Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures in Southern History

136 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Southern History

  Hardcover / 9780807144015 / March 2012
  Paperback / 9780807144688 / March 2012

In The Southern Political Tradition, the distinguished southern historian Michael Perman explores the region’s distinctive political practices and behaviors, primarily resulting from the South’s perception of itself as a minority under attack from the 1820s to the 1960s. Drawing on his extensive research and understanding of southern politics, Perman singles out three features of the area’s political history. He calls the first element “The One-Party Paradigm,” a political system characterized by one-party dominance rather than competition between two or more. The second feature, “The Frontier and Filibuster Defense,” illustrates a dramatic, preemptive response within Congress to any threat to the region’s racial order. And in the third, “The Over-Representation Mechanism,” Perman describes the skillful manipulation of institutional mechanisms in Congress that resulted in greater strength and influence than the region’s relatively small population warranted. 

This anomalous tradition has all but disappeared since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Southern Political Tradition offers an insightful and provocative perspective on the South’s political history.

Michael Perman is research professor in the humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has written or edited eight books in American history, most recently Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888–1908 and Pursuit of Unity: A Political History of the American South. He has also held a Guggenheim Fellowship and won three book prizes.

Praise for The Southern Political Tradition

“A creative and compelling argument [that] will benefit students of southern politics.”—Journal of Southern History

“For anyone seeking a keenly incisive and brief overview of the entire history of politics in the American South, Michael Perman’s The Southern Political Tradition is simply the best place to start.”—Civil War Book Review

“An indispensable addition to the political history of the American South. . . . Effective and enlightening.”—Louisiana History

“Perman's presentation sweeps engagingly across the length of United States history and makes for a persuasive and enjoyable read.”—North Carolina Historical Review

“Highly readable....The Southern Political Tradition represents an essential guide to the region's history.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“A sweeping, thought-provoking survey of southern politics over two centuries, this book should be of great interest to everyone concerned with the much-debated question of southern distinctiveness.”—Peter Kolchin, author of A Sphinx on the American Land: The Nineteenth-Century South in Comparative Perspective

“In The Southern Political Tradition, Michael Perman, one of the leading historians of southern politics in the half century following the Civil War, takes a step back to grapple with the distinctiveness of the politics practiced by southerners from the era of slavery to today. He provides a sweeping and penetrating analysis of the South’s long struggle to fend off federal intrusion and retain disproportionate political power.”—James L. Roark, author of The American Promise: A History of the United States

“In this compact book Michael Perman has achieved the near impossible: encapsulate the sweep of southern political history in a close examination of how a determined southern minority used every device in the parliamentary and constitutional toolkit to ward off threats to sectional interests, particularly racial ones. A welcome addition to the literature.”—Lawrence N. Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans

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