Arkansas and the New South, 1874–1929


Arkansas and the New South, 1874–1929
Carl Moneyhon
978-1-55728-490-7 (paper)
October 1997


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This study is the first published in the Histories of Arkansas, a new series that will build a complete chronological history of the state from the colonial period through modern times. Under the general editorship of noted historian Elliott West, this series will include various thematic histories as well as the chronologically arranged core volumes.

In Arkansas and the New South, 1874–1929 Carl Moneyhon examines the struggle of Arkansas’s people to enter the economic and social mainstreams of the nation in the years from the end of Reconstruction to the beginning of the Great Depression. Economic changes brought about by development of the timber industry, exploitation of the rich coal fields in the western part of the state, discovery of petroleum, and building of manufacturing industries transformed social institutions and fostered a demographic shift from rural to urban settings.

Arkansans were notably successful in bringing the New South to their state, relying on individual enterprise and activist government as they integrated more fully into the national economy and society. But by 1929 persistent problems in the still dominant agricultural sector, the onset of the depression, and heightening social tensions arrested progress and dealt the state a major economic setback that would only be overcome in the years following World War II.

Expanding upon scholarly articles that merely touch on this era in Arkansas history and delving into pertinent primary sources, Moneyhon offers not only an overall look at the state but also an explanation for the singular path it took during these momentous years.

“In a short text the author covers much ground, makes his points succinctly, organizes his material clearly, and says many useful things. The book deserves a wide readership.”
Choice Reviews, June 1998

“This volume by Carl H. Moneyhon, the first in a series of thematic histories to be published by the University of Arkansas Press in its Histories of Arkansas series, is another scholarly contribution designed to fill the vacuum in the state’s history. Moneyhon, in a fast-moving and quite readable survey of the forces of progressive change that were operating in Arkansas between 1874 and 1929, discusses the struggle of the state’s business and political leaders to fashion a “New Arkansas” following the turbulent Reconstruction era.”
—C. Calvin Smith, Journal of Southern History, May 1999

Arkansas and the New South is based upon a solid familiarity with the primary and secondary sources-an awareness based upon the author’s career-long study of the state. The book is well designed, as is typical of titles from the University of Arkansas Press. … Students of Arkansas history finally have a single volume that summarizes the New South period in a manner that fits the state into the broader context of regional and national history.”
—Tom W. Dillard, Journal of American History, March 1999

“This is a first-rate overview of the transformation of Arkansas life from the end of Reconstruction to the beginning of the Great Depression. In a relatively brief format, the book covers key events, personalities, and social forces that are necessary for understanding Arkansas in these years. It has a rather elegant design, with chapters well formatted to be both chronological and thematic, giving a reader a sense of the key episodes in the process of Arkansas’s emergence as a New South state.”
—Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi

Histories of Arkansas

The Histories of Arkansas Series aims to give readers a comprehensive, enlightening, and entertaining survey of the state’s history ably written by our leading scholars. With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861–1874, begins where S. Charles Bolton left off in Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless, his portrait of Arkansas as a territory and youthful state. DeBlack carries the story to the point where Carl H. Moneyhon picked it up in the first volume published in the series, Arkansas and the New South, 1874–1929. Ben Johnson’s recent Arkansas in Modern America, 1930–1999 then takes us from the Great Depression to the near present. This fine quartet of books now follows the history of this remarkable state from its entry into the nation until today. With skill and insight matching that of his three compatriots,Thomas DeBlack fills in Arkansas’s years of fire and sword and thus completes a portrait of two centuries of this fascinating, varied, often troubled, but always surprising part of the American mosaic.

—Elliott West in the preface to With Fire and Sword