Nancy Isenberg begins her ambitious effort to use the four-century history of “white trash” to reveal the “untold story of class in America” by deftly tracing “the ongoing influence of English definitions of poverty and class” (4) in shaping American attitudes toward the marginalized “waste people” of the perpetually impoverished classes (xv). Poor whites who found no place in the prevailing economic or social order were seen as threatening its stability in both England and the colonies. Thus despite his reputation as a “great and glorious asserter of natural Rights,” (43) John Locke included in The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina certain provisions for a quasi-feudal colonial hierarchy that granted both aristocratic standing and actual wealth in property to certain “titled elites and manor lords” (44) while creating a permanent white servant class bound to work their properties for life. When the...

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