The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

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If you find the idea of reading a book that deals with the economics of slavery in American’s past off-putting (or deadly dull, or too academic, or only slightly more desirable than being mauled by a bear), let me assure you that this book will be anything but. Edward Baptist, a professor of history at Cornell University, does a masterful job of blending poignant slave narratives with razor-sharp research that proposes an analysis of the institution of slavery in a new light.

The book is not strictly sequential. Baptist organizes each chapter as a different aspect of the body: Heart, Feet, Heads, Right Hand, Left Hand, Tongues, Breath, Seed, Blood, Backs, Arms and Corpse. This enables him to deal with the various facets of human bondage and how individuals, the nation, and the economy were affected by them.

While the “myth of the lost cause” tries to persuade us that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights and protection of the Southern agrarian way of life, The Half Has Never Been Told makes it clear that the war was fought not only to preserve slavery, but to expand it. Half heart-wrenching prose, half facts and figures that make you catch your breath, it provides a look at the institution of slavery with an original, more holistic perspective than is commonly taught. This research-driven, beautifully written book is more than worth your time