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The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and…

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American… (2014)

by Edward E. Baptist

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4461433,557 (4.38)1 / 18

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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 personal accounts, which seemed largely imagined, and economic statistical and historical details. I was hoping for a more focused book. In this case, I would have preferred that the author had left out the personal stuff. ( )
  fhudnell | Sep 18, 2018 |
wonderful book, ( )
  annbury | Dec 28, 2017 |
brain-changing ( )
  erikasolberg770 | Oct 9, 2017 |
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. ( )
  2wonderY | Mar 6, 2017 |
This is a "must read" book for anyone who is interested in American history, which means anyone who is seriously interested in American politics. Baptist argues that slavery was at the center of the early expansion of the American economy, using both careful research and moving narratives of individual slaves.

Most writing about American history tends to focus on slavery, the "Peculiar Institution" of the ante-bellum South, as a regional issue whose political effects became critical, but whose national economic effects were limited. Baptist turns that view on its head, arguing that the economic effects of slavery dominated the national economy in the fifty years before the civil war. He documents this view with rigorous research, focussing on the fact that the amount of cotton produced by each slave rose sharply over the period, reaching levels that free labor could not match. Cotton became America's most important export, and, indirectly, the basis of much of the rest of the economy -- the South was a major market for the North, increasingly so as the South grew richer and richer. This led to the development of a financial system emerged that depended on the continued geographic expansion of slavery, which spilled over into the political sphere and came to dominate Southern priorities.

Baptist's book is carefully researched, solid economic history. But it is also a searing examination of how slavery worked in the cotton fields of the deep South. The rising productivity of slave labor was no accident; it was the result of torture, and the fear of more torture. It is painful to read much of what he writes about how slaves were treated -- punished, humiliated, separated from family -- and he doesn't mince words. For example, he refers to "slave labor camps" instead of "plantations", part of a shift in view that makes what happened stark and real. ( )
1 vote annbury | Jan 14, 2017 |
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A beautiful late April day, seventy-two years after slavery ended in the United States. (Introduction)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 046500296X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:07 -0400)

Historian Edward Baptist reveals how the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States.

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