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Cracker Culture, Cracker Culture, 0817303286, 0-8173-0328-6, 978-0-8173-0328-0, 9780817303280, , , Cracker Culture, 0817304584, 0-8173-0458-4, 978-0-8173-0458-4, 9780817304584, , , Cracker Culture, 0817384529, 0-8173-8452-9, 978-0-8173-8452-4, 9780817384524,

Cracker Culture
by Grady McWhiney

Quality Paper
1989. 336 pp.
Price:  $34.95 s
E Book
2010. 336 pp.
Price:  $34.95 d

Cracker Culture is a provocative study of social life in the Old South that probes the origin of cultural differences between the South and the North throughout American history. Among Scotch-Irish settlers the term “Cracker” initially designated a person who boasted, but in American usage the word has come to designate poor whites. McWhiney uses the term to define culture rather than to signify an economic condition. Although all poor whites were Crackers, not all Crackers were poor whites; both, however, were Southerners.

The author insists that Southerners and Northerners were never alike. American colonists who settled south and west of Pennsylvania during the 17th and 18th centuries were mainly from the “Celtic fringe” of the British Isles. The culture that these people retained in the New World accounts in considerable measure for the difference between them and the Yankees of New England, most of whom originated in the lowlands of the southeastern half of the island of Britain. From their solid base in the southern backcountry, Celts and their “Cracker” descendants swept westward throughout the antebellum period until they had established themselves and their practices across the Old South. Basic among those practices that determined their traditional folkways, values, norms, and attitudes was the herding of livestock on the open range, in contrast to the mixed agriculture that was the norm both in southeastern Britain and in New England. The Celts brought to the Old South leisurely ways that fostered idleness and gaiety. Like their Celtic ancestors, Southerners were characteristically violent; they scorned pacifism; they considered fights and duels honorable and consistently ignored laws designed to control their actions. In addition, family and kinship were much more important in Celtic Britain and the antebellum South than in England and the Northern United States. Fundamental differences between Southerners and Northerners shaped the course of antebellum American history; their conflict in the 1860s was not so much brother against brother as culture against culture.

Grady McWhiney (1928–2006) was a noted historian of the American South and of the Civil War. He taught at a number of institutions, notably at The University of Alabama and Texas Christian University. Among his many booklength works are Attack and Die: Civil War Tactics and the Southern Heritage and Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat (vol. 1), both available from The University of Alabama Press.

“Assuredly the most controversial book about the South to emerge in years, and the discussion of its argument is certain to be heated and extensive.”
—Louisiana History

“Cracker Culture will enjoy a permanent place in the literature of its field. . . . Assign [it] and stand back to watch the fur fly.”
—Journal of the Early Republic

“McWhiney defines and explains the ‘cracker’ culture that emanated from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and northern England to become the dominant culture among British settlers in the Old South. Characterized primarily by the values of herdsmen, this white ethnic culture valued leisure for leisure’s sake, emphasized an oral tradition over the written word, and placed stress upon ideas that were antagonistic to the life-style of English-dominated northerners. It was, therefore, only a matter of time and circumstance before the two basic cultural heritages—Celtic and English—would collide in a devastating war.”