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“P” is for Plantations

“P” is for Plantations. In the 17th century the term “plantation,” which formerly referred to any colonial outpost, evolved to refer specifically to large agricultural estates whose land was farmed by a sizable number of workers, usually slaves, for export crops. Englishmen originally created plantation societies in the West Indies, and in the 1670s South Carolina became a northern extension of this empire—with rice and cotton as exports. The plantation system did not end with the Civil War as sharecropping and tenantry replaced slavery as a labor system. The decline of rice led many lowcountry owners to sell their properties to wealthy northerners for hunting preserves. Since the 1970s other former rice plantations have become upscale residential developments and golf communities. Further inland, abandoned cotton plantations have frequently been harvested for their timber rather than cotton.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.