Slavery and the New History of Capitalism


Numerous historians, generally untrained in economics but with very clear economic ideas in mind, have produced an outpouring of scholarly works on the "New History of Capitalism." Their works share a strong inclination to view all economic relationships as essentially relationships of power. This colloquium explored the most prominent of these arguments concerning the nature of exploitation and the historical claim of the dependence of markets on slavery.


Conference Readings

Ball, Charles. Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball. New York: John S. Taylor, 1837.

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

Beckert, Sven. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Vintage Books, 2014.

Beckert, Sven and Seth Rockman. Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2016.

Blackburn, Robin. “White Gold, Black Labour: A Review of ‘Empire of Cotton’.” New Left Review 95 (September/October 2015): 151-160.

Christy, David. Cotton is King: or the Culture of Cotton and Its Relation to Agriculture, Manufactures and Commerce. New York: Derby and Jackson, 1856.

Engerman, Stanley L. “Review of The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815–1860 by Calvin Schermerhorn and The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist.” Journal of Economic Literature 55, no. 2 (2017): 637–643.

Hansen, Bradley A. “The Back of Ed Baptist’s Envelope.” Bradley A. Hansen’s Blog (October 30, 2014). http://bradleyahansen.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-back-of-ed-baptists-envelope.html (4/23/19).

Hilt, Eric. “Economic History, Historical Analysis, and the ‘New History of Capitalism’.” Journal of Economic History 77 (June 2017): 511-536.

Johnson, Walter. The River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen. “Slavery Did Not Make America Rich.” Reason (August/September 2018): 1-2.

McCurry, Stephanie. “Plunder of Black Life: The Problem of Connecting the History of Slavery to the Economics of the Present.” Times Literary Supplement (May 19, 2017): 1-2.

Oakes, James. “Capitalism and Slavery and the Civil War.” International Labor and Working-Class History 89 (Spring 2016): 195-220.

Olmstead, Alan L. and Paul W. Rhode. “Cotton, Slavery, and the New History of Capitalism.” Explorations in Economic History 67 (2018): 1-17.

Post, Charles. “Slavery and the New History of Capitalism.” Catalyst 1, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 1-20.

Wright, Gavin. “Review of River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and the Empire of Cotton by Walter Johnson.” Journal of Economic Literature 52 (September 2014): 877-879.

Wright, Gavin. Slavery and American Economic Development. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.