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The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism Paperback – October 25, 2016
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"The overwhelming power of the stories that Baptist recounts, and the plantation-level statistics he's compiled, give his book the power of truth and revelation."
―Los Angeles Times
"Thoughtful, unsettling.... Baptist turns the long-accepted argument that slavery was economically inefficient on its head, and argues that it was an integral part of America's economic rise."―Daily Beast
"Wonderful.... Baptist provides meticulous, extensive, and comprehensive evidence that capitalism and the wealth it created was absolutely dependent on the forced labor of Africans and African-Americans, downplaying culturalist arguments for Western prosperity."―Nation
"By far the finest account of the deep interplay of the slave trade...and the development of the U.S. economy."―Stephen L. Carter
"Baptist has a knack for explaining complex financial matters in lucid prose.... The Half Has Never Been Told's underlying argument is persuasive."―New York Times Book Review
"Baptist's real achievement is to ground these financial abstractions in the lives of ordinary people. In vivid passages, he describes the sights, smells and suffering of slavery. He writes about individual families torn apart by global markets. Above all, Baptist sets out to show how America's rise to power is inextricable from the suffering of black slaves."―Salon
"You cannot understand the economy of the U.S. - or even of the world -without an understanding of how its development was driven by 19th century slavery. This book gives you that, in a stunningly readable, heartbreaking form. Genius."―Mark Bittman, Omnivoracious
"It taught me so much about slavery and how slavery enabled America to become America. Every time I left my house after reading, I saw the world differently. I saw the legacy of human misery underpinning it all."―Jesmyn War, author of Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped
"Baptist has a fleet, persuasive take on the materialist underpinnings of the 'peculiar institution.'"―Colson Whitehead, Mashable
About the Author
Edward E. Baptist is an associate professor of history at Cornell University. Author of the award-winning Creating an Old South, he lives in Ithaca, New York.
Top customer reviews
He details how American slavery was one of the most productive economic institutions in world history and how the expansion of slavery made the U.S. into a modern industrial empire. He details how slavery, by use of torture and terrorism, increased productivity and made the cotton industry the biggest, most sustained, expansion of the economy in human history.
He makes the point that it wasn't just a Southern industry; indeed it benefitted the entire world -- from Northern banks, ship builders and industries that supported slavery (farm implements, whips, ropes, chains, etc) to the textile mills of Western Europe, especially Britain.
And he makes a good argument that slavery would not have died if it hadn't been for the Civil War. Indeed, from the founding of the nation, slavery had grown for 70 years at a rate unprecedented in human history. There's no evidence to suggest that such a profitable and productive industry would have ever died out on its own accord. He shows that the cotton industry was never as productive again, after it lost it's use of the whip.
Finally, he points out that the South brought about their own destruction. It was they that always pushed for more and more expansion of slavery (even contemplating taking over Cuba and all of Mexico!), which pushed Northerners into fearing for their own loss of political power. The Southern push for ever-growing slavery culminated in the creation of the new Republican Party, formed to not end slavery but to end it's expansion. The South then went to war in order to create its own government based on slavery. Thankfully, they were destroyed.
It's a very well written book that not only makes his arguments with well researched historical documents. He also adds powerful voice to the millions of men, women and children who suffered under the bondage of slavery.