Featured Fellow: Nicolas Barreyre, “Of Gold and Freedman”

This post has been long delayed (sorry Nicolas!), and although he has now returned to his native France, here is some information about the project Nicolas Barreyre worked on during his month in residence at AAS.

Nicolas Barreyre, Assistant Professor in American History, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre and École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, France.

Joyce A. Tracy Fellowship Project: “Of Gold and Freedman: A Sectional History of Reconstruction, 1865-1877”

Nicolas Barreyre’s project examines how economic debates mobilized much political energy in the North after the Civil War and directly affected the fate of the South. It aims to analyze why Northern policies on the public debt, greenbacks, and tariffs, were as much a part of Reconstruction as Southern race relations and constitutional issues.

At the end of the Civil War, Americans were faced with the daunting economic consequences of the conflict. The Union had to find a way to pay off its huge public debt, transition to peacetime taxation, and regulate the value of a double currency of greenbacks and gold coins with no system of convertibility. This was, of course, in addition to rebuilding and reforming a South disorganized by defeat, economic exhaustion, and emancipation.

Battles over economic and monetary regulation proved as contentious as battles over race, and they disrupted party politics. Tariffs and gold pitted Northeasterners against Midwesterners much more than Republicans against Democrats. Section, it appeared, could trump party. Nicolas Barreyre will use the American Antiquarian Society’s extensive collection of newspapers, campaign newspapers, trade journals, pamphlets, but also visual arts such as political cartoons, to explain why national economic policymaking turned into sectional confrontation; and why this confrontation, in turn, shaped the fate of Southern Reconstruction.

More information about fellowships at AAS, including a directory of fellows and their work, is available on our website.

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