Objects of confidence and choice: professional communities in Alabama, 1804-1861

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Objects of Confidence and Choice considered the centrality of professional communities in Alabama, from1804 to 1861. The dissertation highlighted what it meant to be a professional, as well as what professionals meant to their communities, by examining themes of education, family, wealth patterns, slaveholding, and professional identities This project defined professionals as men with professional degrees or licenses to practice: doctors, lawyers, clergymen, teachers, and others. Several men who appeared in this study have been widely studied: William Lowndes Yancey, Josiah Nott, Dr. J. Marion Sims, James Birney, Leroy Pope Walker, Clement Comer Clay, and his son, Clement Claiborne Clay. Others are less familiar today, but were, in many cases, leaders of their towns and cities. Names were culled from various censuses and tax records and put into a database that included items such as age, marital status, children, real property, personal property, and slaveholding. In total, the database included 453 names. The study also mined a rich vein of primary source material from the very articulate professional community. Objects of Confidence and Choice indicated that professionals were not a social class but a community of institution builders. In order to refine this conclusion, a more targeted investigation of professionals in a single antebellum Alabama town will be needed.

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American history