416 pages | 6 x 9 | 5 illus.
Cloth 2016 | ISBN 9780812248418 | $65.00s | Outside the Americas £52.00
Paper 2018 | ISBN 9780812224177 | $27.50s | Outside the Americas £20.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Early American Studies
View table of contents
"Slavery's Capitalism is a time capsule, neatly containing one of the most important developments in American scholarly and public life that took place during the Obama presidency. . . . The publication of Slavery's Capitalism at the tail end of the Obama era thus provides the perfect opportunity to take stock of what was accomplished in the last round of historicization: to see what is valuable in the paradigm of 'slavery's capitalism,' what is new about the 'new' history of capitalism in the United States, and what, if any, dangers of presentism its practitioners succumbed to. The book both incorporates and builds on a wave of recent scholarship on slavery and capitalism in the United States."—Times Literary SupplementDuring 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.
"The intimate relationship between capitalism and slavery has been too-long dismissed, and with it, the centrality of African and African American labor to the foundation of our modern economic system. Slavery's Capitalism announces the emergence of a new generation of scholars whose detailed research into every nook and cranny of emerging capitalism reveals the inextricable links between the enslavement of people of African descent and today's global economy."—Leslie Harris, Emory University
"The centrality of slavery to the economic development of the United States is revealed here more fully, in more dimensions, than in any other book. Anyone who wants to understand this profound revolution in historical thinking will find no better place to start."—Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America
"This fascinating collection of essays adds striking new insights to the venerable debate over the relationship between capitalism and slavery. It demonstrates slavery's centrality to the nineteenth-century Atlantic economy, and how slavery was fully compatible with technological, managerial, and financial innovation, but also why southern slavery differed from northern capitalism in ways that helped to produce the irrepressible conflict."—Eric Foner, author of Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
"With some of the best work in one of the hottest fields in American history, Slavery's Capitalism re-centers the history of American capitalism on racial slavery as the U.S. economy's initial engine for development. I admire the ambition of the scholarly project and applaud the topical range of the essays."—Gary J. Kornblith, coeditor of Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth-Century America
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.
Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University. Seth Rockman is Associate Professor of History at Brown University.