The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Edward E. Baptist. Basic, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-465-00296-2
Cornell University historian Baptist (Creating an Old South) delivers an unapologetic, damning, and grisly account of slavery’s foundational place in the emergence of America as a global superpower, balancing the macro lens of statistics and national trends with intimate slave narratives. Delivered in a voice that fluidly incorporates both academic objectivity and coarse language, the book is organized into chapters named after a slave’s body parts (i.e., “Heads” and “Arms”), brutal images reinforced by the “metastatic rate” of the “endlessly expanding economy” of slavery in the U.S. in the first half of the 18th century. The “massive markets,” “accelerating growth,” and new economic institutions in America’s “nexus of cotton, slaves, and credit” lend credence to Baptist’s insistence that common conceptions of the slave South as economically doomed from the start are possible only in hindsight. At the dawn of the Civil War, he suggests, the South’s perception that it was a “highly successful, innovative sector,” was coupled with slave-owners’ belief that objections to slavery in the North rested not on moral concerns, but on fears of “political bullying” from the slave states. Baptist’s chronicle exposes the taint of blood in virtually all of the wealth that Americans have inherited from their forebears, making it a rewarding read for anyone interested in U.S.A.’s dark history. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 560 pages - 978-0-465-09768-5
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