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Reputation and 'Reputational Entrepreneurship' in the Colonial South and Early Republic: The Case of Plantation Overseers.

Phillips, Gervase and Sandy, Laura (2020) Reputation and 'Reputational Entrepreneurship' in the Colonial South and Early Republic: The Case of Plantation Overseers. Historical Research, 94 (263). pp. 96-116. ISSN 0950-3471

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Abstract

Overseers were essential both to the profitability of North American slave plantations and to maintaining white racial hegemony. Yet they and their families were frequently condemned by planters as shiftless, incompetent, dishonest and brutal. Drawing on the sociology of reputation, and in particular the concept of ‘reputational entrepreneurship,’ it is here argued that the damning claims made by planters, and the responses of overseers and their wives, reveal an on-going and significant social conflict, within white colonial society, between wealthy, but insecure, planter ‘patriarchs’ and their free, ambitious and independently minded employees.

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