Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1992
When W. J. Cash set out more than fifty years ago to characterize southern society and culture, he chose the image of the frontier as his defining metaphor and rejected popular visions of refined and pedigreed gentlemen moving through a timeless and elegant landscape. To understand the South, he insisted, one must recognize that its history is, to paraphrase Hobbes, nasty, brutish, and short. He portrayed a society not far removed from the frontier, still shaped by its defining influence. Daniel Usner’s fine book suggests that Cash may have chosen the right metaphor, but missed much of its potential subtlety, complexity, and richness.