Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking, must-read history demonstrating that America’s economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves
Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution — the 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 E. Baptist reveals in the prizewinning 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.
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.
"An ambitious new economic and social history of antebellum America....The overwhelming power of the stories that Baptist recounts and the plantation-level statistics hes compiled give his book the power of truth and revelation....The Half Has Never Been Told is a fresh…take on a history we thought we knew too well the history of a people who were victimized by a medieval brand of capitalism but survived...Baptist adds many new, stark and essential elements to that story. His most important achievement is to show us how the dismal science of economics served to make the lot of slaves even grimmer.” The Los Angeles Times
"Baptists work is a valuable addition to the growing literature on slavery and American development.... Baptist has a knack for explaining complex financial matters in lucid prose. The Half Has Never Been Told's underlying argument is persuasive.” The New York Times Book Review
"Abolitionists were contemptuous of such self-serving nonsense, but they too tended to see slavery as an economically inefficient, and morally reprehensible, hangover from the premodern past.... In The Half Has Never Been Told, Edward E. Baptist takes passionate issue with such assumptions. He asserts that slavery was neither inherently inefficient nor a counterpoint to capitalism. Rather, he says, it was woven inextricably into the transnational fabric of early 19th-century capitalism
Baptist writes with verve and a good eye for the dramatic.” The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
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.