ERIC Number: ED308040
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1989-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
The Limits of Subsistence: Agriculture and Industry in Central Appalachia.
Pudup, Mary Beth
Current interpretations of central Appalachia's chronic poverty focus on the region's economic dependence on the bituminous coal industry, controlled by absentee investors and serving an external market. Such theories overlook the ways in which the agricultural sector shaped subsequent industrial development. By analyzing the farm economy of 16 southeastern Kentucky counties during the 19th century, this report illuminates the developmental links between central Appalachia's agrarian and industrial sectors. During the 1830s and 1840s a market for mountain livestock existed in the newly opened cotton areas of the deep South. Nevertheless, by 1850 Appalachian farm production was organized around simple subsistence rather than commercial production. With cheap land and abundant family labor, mountain farmers were not compelled to produce for the commercial market. External conditions also affected the direction taken by Appalachia's farm economy as productivity-enhancing farm equipment, emerging transportation systems, and newly established agricultural colleges aimed at the commercially competitive flatland farmer. When pitted against assured prospects elsewhere, the mountain region could not sustain the interest of investors. Further, the supply and demand conditions characteristic of subsistence farming precluded the development of industries producing farm inputs or processing farm surpluses. This inhibition of industrial capital formation meant that local capital was not available to develop the region's timber and coal resources for export. When the bituminous coal industry arrived to satisfy the resource demands of distant industry, absentee investors met with little competition for control of Appalachia's modern industrial economy. This report contains 48 references. (SV)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Historical Materials; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Appalachia (Central); Kentucky; Nineteenth Century; Regional History; Subsistence Farming
Note: Paper presented at the Appalachian Studies Conference (Morgantown, WV, March 17-19, 1989).