A System Grand and Harmonious
The introduction starts by discussing how the railroad embodied nineteenth century capitalism and it notes how the book looks at the South’s railroads as a cohesive network that connected the South through a capitalist means. It also sets the scene by describing how the South was in transition after the Civil War and Reconstruction and how the white elites in the region were seeking to reconstruct capitalism. The railroad was a powerful symbol and an economic engine of change that allowed these boosters to proclaim that a New South had risen. But the railroad’s link with progress obscured the anxieties and monsters that it generated, and the introduction introduces counter narratives to the New South story that later chapters discuss. The book argues that railroads were uniquely destructive in the region and that white elites and railroad companies exploited the region’s racial tensions to obscure these anxieties.
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