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

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Basic Books, Sep 9, 2014 - Business & Economics - 498 pages
Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institutionthe 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 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. Until the Civil War, Baptist explains, the most important American economic innovations were ways to make slavery ever more profitable. Through forced migration and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from enslaved African Americans. Thus the United States seized control of the world market for cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and became a wealthy nation with global influence.

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. It forces readers to reckon with the violence at the root of American supremacy, but also with the survival and resistance that brought about slavery's endand created a culture that sustains America's deepest dreams of freedom.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fhudnell - www.librarything.com

This book was certainly extensively researched, but I hated its structure. I found it contrived that each chapter is named for a body part, like arms or tongues. I also didn't care for the mix of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - 2wonderY - LibraryThing

Powerful, but looong. The descriptions of lives stolen was particularly riveting; making me feel white guilt. But Baptist had a tendency to present a person enslaved, and make them stand and be examined while he went on and on driving his point. That in itself, felt like a further indignity. Read full review

Contents

Feet
1
Heads
32
17911815
39
Right Hand
77
Left Hand
123
Tongues
161
Seed
215
Blood
275
Backs
309
Arms
343
The Corpse
397
Acknowledgments
421
Copyright

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About the author (2014)

Edward E. Baptist is an associate professor of history at Cornell University. Author of the award-winning Creating an Old South, he grew up in Durham, North Carolina. He lives in Ithaca, New York.