Posted on October 22, 2013
We are pleased to announce that the 2013 Hines Prize for the best first book on South Carolina or the Atlantic World has been awarded to Dr. Tristan Stubbs for his work, The Plantation Overseers of Eighteenth-Century Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. Dr. Stubbs recently completed a PhD in American History at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, UK. Formerly, he lectured in American and Caribbean studies at the University of Sussex. He has been Gilder Lehrman Fellow at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Virginia Historical Society, and Lewis P. Jones Visiting Fellow at the University of South Carolina. His writing on historical and contemporary slavery, the history of ideas, agricultural history, the Atlantic slave trade, and gender history has appeared in journals, magazines, encyclopedias and online.
The study focuses on plantation overseers in eighteenth-century Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, subjects long-neglected in the historiography of American slavery. These men were the arbiters of violent punishment for many thousands of bondpeople. They represented not only the cruel régime imposed by slaveholders, but also the vicious authority of slave societies that designated the oversight system the first line of defence against enslaved resistance. Although violence was practised and encouraged by plantation owners in the early years of the eighteenth century, the latter decades witnessed a shift in their attitudes. By late century, planters lambasted overseers for their intrinsic violence, their passionate tempers, and their universal barbarity towards slaves.
In his acceptance of the prize, Dr. Stubbs wrote, “My principal aim was to uncover the reasons for the widespread vilification of overseers by the end of the 1700s. In addition to their reputation for violence, plantation overseers were also believed to be untrustworthy employees, morally dissolute supervisors, and incompetent agriculturists. I argue that these shifts in opinion grew out of far-reaching ideological and structural transformations to American slave societies during the Revolutionary era, not least the need to justify the survival of slavery in an ostensibly free republic.”