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The Half Has Never Been Told Summary and Reviews

The Half Has Never Been Told

Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

by Edward E. Baptist

The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist X
The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist
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Book Summary

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 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 end - and created a culture that sustains America's deepest dreams of freedom.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A myth-busting work that pursues how the world profited from American slavery.... This is a complicated story involving staggering scholarship that adds greatly to our understanding of the history of the United States."- Kirkus

"Starred Review. Professional historians and lay readers will pore over this book for years to come. Essential for all readers interested in American history and the history of slavery." - Library Journal

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"This book reveals a dirty secret about American business, and how commerce first boomed before the Civil War. Baptist unearths a big, nasty story: in the North and the South, slavery was the tainted fuel that kindled the fires of U.S. capitalism and made the country grow." - Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family

"This book, quite simply, offers the fullest and most powerful account we have of the evolution of slavery in the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War. Baptist's account is eloquent, humane, passionate, and necessary." - Edward Ayers, President of Richmond University and author of the Bancroft Prize-winning In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America

"The Half Has Never Been Told is a true marvel. Groundbreaking, thoroughly researched, expansive, and provocative it will force scholars of slavery and its aftermath to reconsider long held assumptions about the 'peculiar institution's' relationship to American capitalism and contemporary issues of race and democracy." - Peniel Joseph, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and author of Stokely: A Life

"Edward Baptist's book belongs on the very short shelf of field-defining histories of slavery. It will be read and debated for a long time to come." - Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North

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Author Information

Edward E. Baptist

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.

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