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Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National Character


William Taylor's Cavalier and Yankee was one of the most famous works of American history written in the 1960s. The book is an intellectual history ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National Character

Overall customer rating: 5.000

Southern Gentlemen and Puritan Roundheads

by FanOfTimeLifeBooks on Nov 15, 2011

In Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National Character (1961) William Taylor examines literary fiction of early 19th century America and its role in shaping the national character. He elaborates on the popular 19th century theory that the North had been settled by one party to the English Civil War, the Roundheads, and the South by the other, the royal party of the Cavaliers. The Yankee was a direct descendent of the Puritan Roundhead and the Southern Gentleman of the English Cavalier. These two ways of life steadily diverged from colonial times and many Americans after 1861 believed that these differences between North and South had brought on the Civil War. Taylor traces how this idea grew and developed in the first half of the 19th century. Also, Taylor asserts that the Cavalier ideal was significant because it defined a tendency in southern thought which ultimately affected political events. Taylor believes that Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin is a significant work of American literature; its publication probably did more than any book ever published to alter the American image of the South. At the same time, John Brown's raid of 1859 altered the southern image of the North; to southerners, John Brown personified northern predatory intentions as well as destructiveness, conspiracy, and hypocrisy. Finally, Taylor asserts that the line between North and South was psychological and not physical. In summary, Taylor reveals the differences between North and South through the lens of literary fiction. This literary fiction affected the psychology of both regions and was a factor in southern sectionalism. I liked this book a great deal as it presents a unique perspective on the causes of the American Civil War. Highly recommended.

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