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Space, place, and the landscapes of slavery

Christopher DeCorse

Cultural Dynamics, November 2022

Chris DeCourse Headshot

Christopher DeCorse


"Reconstructing the Landscapes of Slavery: A Visual History of the Plantation in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World," by Dale Tomich, Rafael de Bivar Marquese, Reinaldo Funes Monzote, and Carlos Venegas Fornias, examines the economic and political restructuring of 19th century slavery through contemporary paintings, plans and images.

Ranging across the diverse settings of the lower Mississippi Valley, Cuba, and Brazil, the authors use a landscape-oriented perspective to chart the redeployment, reorganization, and industrialization of slavery during the 19th century, a time referred to as the ‘Second Slavery’.

The incremental steps toward abolition during the 19th century did not result in a decline of agriculture based on enslaved labor or weaken the institutions that supported it. Rather, plantation slavery emerged as an efficient agro-industrial system, massive in scale, that was central to the political and economic restructuring of industrial capitalism.

New political-economic spaces were exploited, while old ones declined. Focusing on Cuba, Brazil and the Mississippi Valley, the authors examine the contrasting spatial and material organization of plantations to shed new light on how these landscapes expressed both global socioeconomic processes and local contexts.

The volume affords an insightful view of plantation landscapes that can be usefully read by historians, archaeologists, and wider audiences.