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Dependent Urbanization in Colonial America: The Case of Charleston, South Carolina

David A. Smith
Social Forces
Vol. 66, No. 1 (Sep., 1987), pp. 1-28
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2578898
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2578898
Page Count: 28
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Dependent Urbanization in Colonial America: The Case of Charleston, South Carolina
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Abstract

This paper argues that a world-system perspective can be used to interpret the early history of urban development in the United States. The form, function, and ultimate decline of Charleston, South Carolina in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is described as a case of dependent urbanization. The needs of British mercantilism dictated that the southern colonies play a peripheral role as a supplier of agricultural products. As the headlink connecting the plantation economy to London, Charleston came to be financially and commercially dominated by the British. A quantitative analysis of trade flows immediately prior to the American Revolution shows that the southern city was much more closely tied to Great Britain and more loosely integrated into intracolonial trade than the other major ports of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. This external dependence had an impact on Charleston's internal class structure which led to the political dominance of an "anti-developmental" elite and ultimately to economic stagnation.

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