Article ID: CBB721006221

When Hay Was King: Energy History and Economic Nationalism in the Nineteenth-Century United States (2023)


Ariel Ron (Author)

American Historical Review
Volume: 128
Issue: 1
Pages: 177-213
Publication date: 2023
Language: English

Hay was a linchpin of the early industrial energy regime. It was the primary fodder for working horses, who became more rather than less important over the 1800s. Though largely ignored by historians, hay was of comparable value to cotton and wheat in the nineteenth-century United States. The crop’s historiographical invisibility is partly due to its relatively informal and decidedly subglobal production and exchange patterns. Whereas cotton and wheat exports passed through customhouses and institutionalized exchanges that carefully recorded trade volumes, hay was almost never exported and often underwent no market transaction at all, instead being used as an intermediate good on farms. Only when the US federal government added a detailed agricultural census in 1850 did the magnitude and importance of hay production become publicly legible. At that point, hay was drafted into a wide-ranging debate about economic development between Northern antislavery nationalists and Southern proslavery free traders, with “King Hay” emerging as a foil for “King Cotton.” King Hay thus urges historians to pay more attention to the trade patterns, developmental policies, and economic ideologies that generated distinctly national, as opposed to global, economic spaces within nineteenth-century capitalism.

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Authors & Contributors
Arnold, David
Bourne, W. R. P.
Derry, Margaret Elsinor
Ervin, Michael A.
Gormo, Jean
Greene, Ann Norton
Agricultural History
American Historical Review
Archives of Natural History
Comparative Studies in Society and History
Environment and History
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Duke University Press
Harvard University Press
University of Arizona Press
University of Illinois Press
University of Toronto Press
Energy resources and technologies
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Early modern
United States
Great Britain
Great Plains (North America)
New Zealand

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