The Shaping of Southern Culture

Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s

By Bertram Wyatt-Brown

The Shaping of Southern Culture

440 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, appends., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4912-5
    Published: April 2001

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Extending his investigation into the ethical life of the white American South beyond what he wrote in Southern Honor (1982), Bertram Wyatt-Brown explores three major themes in southern history: the political aspects of the South's code of honor, the increasing prominence of Protestant faith in white southerners' lives, and the devastating impact of war, defeat, and an angry loss of confidence during the post-Civil War era.

This eloquent and richly textured study first demonstrates the psychological complexity of race relations, drawing new and provocative comparisons between American slave oppression and the Nazi concentration camp experience. The author then reveals how the rhetoric and rituals of honor affected the Revolutionary generation and--through a study of Andrew Jackson, dueling, and other demonstrations of manhood--how early American politicians won or lost popularity. In perhaps the most subtle and intriguing section of the book, he discloses the interconnections of honor and religious belief and practice. Finally, exploring the effects of war and defeat on former Confederates, Wyatt-Brown suggests that the rise of violent racism following the Civil War had significant links to the shame of military defeat and the spurious invocation of religious convictions.

About the Author

Bertram Wyatt-Brown is Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida. His books include Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South and The House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family.
For more information about Bertram Wyatt-Brown, visit the Author Page.


"An engaging and challenging series. . . . While honor remains at center stage, Wyatt-Brown perceptively explores its relation to such matters as grace and war. . . . The most interdisciplinary southern historian of his generation, Wyatt-Brown draws heavily upon anthropology, theology, and psychology for his analyses, giving his work a rare intellectual resonance. But the breadth of his reading in other disciplines is more than matched by the depth of his research in historical sources."--Journal of Southern History

"Wyatt-Brown's work has compelled cultural, social, and intellectual historians to take honor as seriously as the southerners he studies. This latest work adds significantly to the debate about the nature and meaning of southern honor."--Journal of the Early Republic

"Those familiar with the concept of honor will want to explore the themes and questions raised here. Those new to the subject will find a useful introduction to a complex subject. If the mark of a great historian is not only the answer he provides but also the new questions he raises, then this book is a confirmation of Wyatt-Brown's influence on a generation of historians."--Journal of American History

"Combines conceptual verve, relentless investigative energy, intellectual power, and willingness to rethink earlier ideas and conclusions in light of the work of others."--Civil War History

"One of the book's great virtues is that it carries the analysis of honor through the Civil War and beyond with an emphasis on the emotional and psychological dimensions. With his usual wide-ranging use of anthropology and literature, Wyatt-Brown probes the darkest recesses of southern minds."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Wyatt-Brown has done what most historians dream about doing: produce a graceful, thoughtful, and important book. His Shaping of Southern Culture significantly contributes to our understanding of how honor animated behavior and helped create a southern ideology."--H-South