Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism | WAMC

Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism

Sep 24, 2014

  Historian Edward Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told that slavery and its expansion were central to the evolution and modernization of our nation in the 18th and 19th centuries, catapulting the US into a modern, industrial and capitalist economy. 

In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a sub-continental cotton empire. By 1861 it had five times as many slaves as it had during the Revolution, and was producing two billion pounds of cotton a year. It was through slavery and slavery alone that the United States achieved a virtual monopoly on the production of cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and was transformed into a global power rivaled only by England.

Edward E. Baptist is Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. He earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania and is the author of Creating an Old South, which won the 2003 Rembert Patrick Best Book in Florida History Award from the Florida Historical Society, and the co-editor of New Studies in the History of American Slavery.