During the nineteenth century, the United States entered the ranks of the world's most advanced and dynamic economies. At the same time, the nation sustained an expansive and brutal system of human bondage. This was no mere coincidence. Slavery's Capitalism argues for slavery's centrality to the emergence of American capitalism in the decades between the Revolution and the Civil War. According to editors Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, the issue is not whether slavery itself was or was not capitalist but, rather, the impossibility of understanding the nation's spectacular pattern of economic development without situating slavery front and center. American capitalism—renowned for its celebration of market competition, private property, and the self-made man—has its origins in an American slavery predicated on the abhorrent notion that human beings could be legally owned and compelled to work under force of violence. Drawing on the expertise of sixteen scholars who are at the forefront of rewriting the history of American economic development, Slavery's Capitalism identifies slavery as the primary force driving key innovations in entrepreneurship, finance, accounting, management, and political economy that are too often attributed to the so-called free market. Approaching the study of slavery as the originating catalyst for the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism casts new light on American credit markets, practices of offshore investment, and understandings of human capital. Rather than seeing slavery as outside the institutional structures of capitalism, the essayists recover slavery's importance to the American economic past and prompt enduring questions about the relationship of market freedom to human freedom. Contributors: Edward E. Baptist, Sven Beckert, Daina Ramey Berry, Kathryn Boodry, Alfred L. Brophy, Stephen Chambers, Eric Kimball, John Majewski, Bonnie Martin, Seth Rockman, Daniel B. Rood, Caitlin Rosenthal, Joshua D. Rothman, Calvin Schermerhorn, Andrew Shankman, Craig Steven Wilder.
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The United States has long epitomized capitalism. From its enterprising shopkeepers, wildcat banks, violent slave plantations, huge industrial working class, and raucous commodities trade to its world-spanning multinationals, its massive factories, and the centripetal power of New York in the world of finance, America has come to symbolize capitalism for two centuries and more. But an understanding of the history of American capitalism is as elusive as it is urgent. What does it mean to make capitalism a subject of historical inquiry? What is its potential across multiple disciplines, alongside different methodologies, and in a range of geographic and chronological settings? And how does a focus on capitalism change our understanding of American history? American Capitalism presents a sampling of cutting-edge research from prominent scholars. These broad-minded and rigorous essays venture new angles on finance, debt, and credit; women’s rights; slavery and political economy; the racialization of capitalism; labor beyond industrial wage workers; and the production of knowledge, including the idea of the economy, among other topics. Together, the essays suggest emerging themes in the field: a fascination with capitalism as it is made by political authority, how it is claimed and contested by participants, how it spreads across the globe, and how it can be reconceptualized without being universalized. A major statement for a wide-open field, this book demonstrates the breadth and scope of the work that the history of capitalism can provoke.
Winner of the 2015 Avery O. Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians Winner of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize A groundbreaking history demonstrating that America's economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution -- the nation's original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America's later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy. Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history.
The present study is an attempt to place in historical perspective the relationship between early capitalism as exemplified by Great Britain, and the Negro slave trade, Negro slavery and the general colonial trade of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is strictly an economic study of the role of Negro slavery and the slave trade in providing the capital which financed the Industrial Revolution in England and of mature industrial capitalism in destroying the slave system.
"Focuses on networks of people, information, conveyances, and other resources and technologies that moved slave-based products from suppliers to buyers and users." (page 3) The book examines the credit and financial systems that grew up around trade in slaves and products made by slaves.
Caitlin Rosenthal explores quantitative management practices on West Indian and Southern plantations, showing how planter-capitalists built sophisticated organizations and used complex accounting tools. By demonstrating that business innovation can be a byproduct of bondage Rosenthal further erodes the false boundary between capitalism and slavery.
In Reckoning with Slavery Jennifer L. Morgan draws on the lived experiences of enslaved African women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to reveal the contours of early modern notions of trade, race, and commodification in the Black Atlantic. From capture to transport to sale to childbirth, these women were demographically counted as commodities during the Middle Passage, vulnerable to rape, separated from their kin at slave markets, and subject to laws that enslaved their children upon birth. In this way, they were central to the binding of reproductive labor with kinship, racial hierarchy, and the economics of slavery. Throughout this groundbreaking study, Morgan demonstrates that the development of Western notions of value and race occurred simultaneously. In so doing, she illustrates how racial capitalism denied the enslaved their kinship and affective ties while simultaneously relying on kinship to reproduce and enforce slavery through enslaved female bodies.
Slavery's Capitalism explores the role of slavery in the development of the U.S. economy during the first decades of the nineteenth century. It tells the history of slavery as a story of national, even global, economic importance and investigates the role of enslaved Americans in the building of the modern world.
Contributions by Tim Armstrong, Edward A. Chappell, W. Ralph Eubanks, Amy A. Foley, Michael Gorra, Sherita L. Johnson, Andrew B. Leiter, John T. Matthews, Julie Beth Napolin, Erin Penner, Stephanie Rountree, Julia Stern, Jay Watson, and Randall Wilhelm In 1930, the same year he moved into Rowan Oak, a slave-built former plantation home in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, William Faulkner published his first work of fiction that gave serious attention to the experience and perspective of an enslaved individual. For the next two decades, Faulkner repeatedly returned to the theme of slavery and to the figures of enslaved people in his fiction, probing the racial, economic, and political contours of his region, nation, and hemisphere in work such as The Sound and the Fury; Light in August; Absalom, Absalom!; and Go Down, Moses. Faulkner and Slavery is the first collection to address the myriad legacies of African chattel slavery in the writings and personal history of one of the twentieth century’s most incisive authors on US slavery and the long ordeal of race in the Americas. Contributors to the volume examine the constitutive links among slavery, capitalism, and modernity across Faulkner’s oeuvre. They study how the history of slavery at the University of Mississippi informs writings like Absalom, Absalom! and trace how slavery’s topologies of the rectilinear grid or square run up against the more reparative geography of the oval in Faulkner’s narratives. Contributors explore how the legacies of slavery literally sound and resound across centuries of history, and across multiple novels and stories in Faulkner’s fictional county of Yoknapatawpha, and they reveal how the author’s remodeling work on his own residence brought him into an uncomfortable engagement with the spatial and architectural legacies of chattel slavery in north Mississippi. Faulkner and Slavery offers a timely intervention not only in the critical study of the writer’s work but in ongoing national and global conversations about the afterlives of slavery and the necessary work of antiracism.
In the troubled days before the American Civil War, both Northern protectionists and Southern free trade economists saw political economy as the key to understanding the natural laws on which every republican political order should be based. They believed that individual freedom was one such law of nature and that this freedom required a market economy in which citizens could freely pursue their particular economic interests and goals. But Northern and Southern thinkers alike feared that the pursuit of wealth in a market economy might lead to the replacement of the independent producer by the wage laborer. A worker without property is a potential rebel, and so the freedom and commerce that give birth to such a worker would seem to be incompatible with preserving the content citizenry necessary for a stable, republican political order. Around the resolution of this dilemma revolved the great debate on the desirability of slavery in this country. Northern protectionists argued that independent labor must be protected at the same time that capitalist development is encouraged. Southern free trade economists answered that the formation of a propertyless class is inevitable; to keep the nation from anarchy and rebellion, slavery—justified by racism—must be preserved at any cost. Battles of the economists such as these left little room for political compromise between North and South as the antebellum United States confronted the corrosive effects of capitalist development. And slavery's retardant effect on the Southern economy ultimately created a rift within the South between those who sought to make slavery more like capitalism and those who sought to make capitalism more like slavery.