cover of book

The Founding of Alabama: Background and Formative Period in the Great Bend and Madison County
by Frances Cabaniss Roberts
edited by Thomas Reidy
University of Alabama Press, 2020
Cloth: 978-0-8173-2043-0 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-9273-4
Library of Congress Classification F332.M3R63 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 976.197

The most thorough history of Alabama’s Madison County region, widely available for the first time

The 1956 dissertation by Frances Cabaniss Roberts is a classic text on Alabama history that continues to be cited by southern historians. Roberts was the first woman to earn a PhD from the University of Alabama’s history department. In the 1950s, she was the only full-time faculty member at what is now the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where she was appointed chair of the history department in 1966.

Roberts’s dissertation, “Background and Formative Period in the Great Bend and Madison County,” remains the most thorough history of the region yet produced. While certainly a product of its era, Roberts work is visionary in its own way and offers a useful look at Alabama’s rise to statehood. Thomas Reidy, editor of this edition, has kept Roberts’s words intact except for correction of minor typographical errors and helpful additions to the notes and citations. His introduction describes both the value of Roberts’s decades of service to UAH and the importance of her dissertation over time. While highlighting the great intrinsic value of Roberts’s research and writing, Reidy also notes its significance in demonstrating how the practice of history—its methods, priorities, and values—has evolved over the intervening decades.

In her examination of Madison County, Roberts spotlights exemplars of civic performance and good community behavior, giving readers one of the earliest accountings of the antebellum southern middle class. Unlike many historians of her time, Roberts displays an interest in both the “common folks” and leaders who built the region—rural and urban—and created the institutions that shaped Madison County. She examines the contributions of merchants, shopkeepers, lawyers, doctors, architects, craftsmen, planters, farmers, elected and appointed officials, board members, and entrepreneurs.
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