SLAVES’ VALUE EXCEEDED THE VALUE OF RAILROADS AND FACTORIES — 10/24/16
Today’s selection — from Slavery’s Capitalism by Sven Beckert and Seth Rickman. In the 1700s, China was the largest economy in the world. However, it was overtaken in the 1800’s, first by England, then the United States. Some economic historians suggest that slavery — tragic and horrifying slavery — was central to this transformation, first through England’s lucrative slave-based colonies in the Caribbean and North America, then, after America’s independence, through America’s slave-based tobacco and cotton industries. In America, the financial value of slaves alone exceeded the combined financial value of all the nation’s railroads and factories:
“During the eighty years between the American Revolution and the Civil War, slavery was indispensable to the economic development of the United States. Such a claim is at once self-evidently true and empirically obscure. … Only in the past several years has scholarship on finance, accounting, management, and technology allowed us to understand American economic development as ‘slavery’s capitalism.’ [Read more]
No, the biggest concern of enslaved people wasn’t whether there was enough sugar make a cake for their master’s birthday.