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Confederate Political Economy: Creating and Managing a Southern Corporatist Nation, 1861–1865, Michael Brem Bonner

Reviewed by Patrick G. Williams



Scholars once tended to dismiss Confederate government as a ramshackle and hamstrung affair, dead at age four of states rights. But closer consideration of Richmond's conscription policy and its impressment of labor and taxes-in-kind has changed that view, with the historian Stephanie McCurry even declaring that “[i]n terms of central state structure and policies, and especially the mobilization of national material and human resources, the C.S.A. was far more statist and modern than their counterpart in the Union” (Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010], 153). Michael Brem Bonner agrees that the Confederate States of America (CSA) was distinctly modern, representing, he says, “a brief foray into twentieth-century corporatist organizational state methods, a system of powerful interest blocs partnered with government institutions for mutual benefit” (p. 3).

Confederate Political Economy is not as comprehensive as its title suggests. It leaves out the CSA's harnessing of agriculture—the foundation of its wealth and diplomacy and whose labor system it existed to defend. The book concentrates not on how the Confederacy fed its armies but how it armed them. Bonner examines two private firms—Tredegar Iron Works and Shelby Iron Compan

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