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The Port Royal Experiment - A Case Study in Development

The Port Royal Experiment

A Case Study in Development

By Kevin Dougherty
Paperback : 9781496809667, 224 pages, 8 b&w illustrations; 1 map, October 2016
Hardcover : 9781628461534, 211 pages, 8 b&w illustrations; 1 map, December 2014

An examination of the emancipated islands of the Carolina coast and how their history sheds light on the difficulties of nation building


The Port Royal Experiment builds on classic scholarship to present not a historical narrative but a study of what is now called development and nation building. The Port Royal Experiment was a joint governmental and private effort begun during the Civil War to transition former slaves to freedom and self-sufficiency. Port Royal Harbor and the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina were liberated by Union Troops in 1861. As the Federal advance began, the white plantation owners and residents fled, abandoning approximately 10,000 black slaves. Several private northern charity organizations stepped in to help the former slaves become self-sufficient. Nonetheless, the Port Royal Experiment was only a mixed success and was contested by efforts to restore the status quo of white dominance. Return to home rule then undid much of what the experiment accomplished.

The Port Royal Experiment divides into ten chapters, each of which is designed to treat a particular aspect of the experience. Topics include planning considerations, philanthropic society activity, civil society, economic development, political development, and resistance. Each chapter presents the case study in the context of more recent developmental and nation-building efforts in such places as Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Modern readers will see that the challenges that faced the Port Royal Experiment remain relevant, even as their solutions remain elusive.


Kevin Dougherty does a masterful job placing his thorough examination of the Port Royal Experiment in the context of the evolving field of nation- and state-building operations in a fashion beneficial to both scholars and policy practitioners.

- Dr. Bob Pauly, University of Southern Mississippi