The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights

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Overview

The American Crucible furnishes a vivid and authoritative history of the rise and fall of slavery in the Americas. For over three centuries enslavement promoted the rise of capitalism in the Atlantic world. The New World became the crucible for a succession of fateful experiments in colonization, silver mining, plantation agriculture, racial enslavement, colonial rebellion, slave witness and slave resistance. Slave produce raised up empires, fostered new cultures of consumption and financed the breakthrough to an industrial order.

Not until the stirrings of a revolutionary age in the 1780s was there the first public challenge to the ‘peculiar institution’. An anti-slavery alliance then set the scene for great acts of emancipation in Haiti in 1804, Britain in 1833–8, the United States in the 1860s, and Cuba and Brazil in the 1880s. In The American Crucible, Robin Blackburn argues that the anti-slavery movement forged many of the ideals we live by today.

‘The best treatment of slavery in the western hemisphere I know of. I think it should establish itself as a permanent pillar of the literature.’ Eric Hobsbawm

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This panoramic history, a follow-up to the author's The Making of New World Slavery, puts slavery—and the fight against it—at the heart of modernity. Historian Blackburn surveys the institution in the Americas from the Spanish conquest to late–19th-century abolition, from Caribbean sugar islands to the American cotton belt, and assigns it a prominent and conflicted role in Western history. Slavery, he notes, thrived in a booming market economy yet contradicted its ideology of free labor; it gave slave-holding planters the power to demand freedom from imperial rule; its horrors provoked slave rebellions and an abolitionist movement that pioneered new conceptions of human rights and energized democrats, working-class radicals, and feminists, but left a legacy of racial hatred and exclusion. Though occasionally meandering and repetitive, Blackburn's narrative is lucid and readable and deftly integrates long-term trends with crises; his emphasis on the Haitian and French Revolutions, often slighted by Anglo-American histories, is especially useful. Blackburn strains in trying to make slavery the motor of early industrial capitalism, but his broad comparative approach, clear prose, and convincing interpretations make this a superb overview of the subject. (June)
Eric Foner - The Nation
“One of the finest one-volume histories of the rise and fall of modern slavery.”
Greg Grandin - The Guardian
“Blackburn describes emancipation in all its vexed, indeterminate grandeur, propelled by violent clashes, public debate, harrowing exposés, and the consolidation of new notions of freedom and equality.”
Stephen Howe - The Independent
“Of the thousands of historians who have written about Atlantic slavery and its abolition, only a handful have ever given us a really original perspective on that vast subject. Even fewer have proposed a satisfying, or stimulating, general theory about it, an attempt at explaining the rise, fall and enduring consequences of the entire New World slave system across the centuries and continents. Robin Blackburn is prominent—even pre-eminent—among those few.”
James Walvin - BBC History Magazine
“Robin Blackburn has already secured his position as Britain’s preeminent historian of slavery. This new volume confirms that position.”
The Guardian
Blackburn describes emancipation in all its vexed, indeterminate grandeur, propelled by violent clashes, public debate, harrowing exposés, and the consolidation of new notions of freedom and equality.— Greg Grandin
Dr. Stanley Engerman
“A marvelous book—insightful and stimulating—which boldly links the expansion of human rights to Marxist and related views of economic development.”
From the Publisher
‘Robin Blackburn has already secured his position as Britain’s pre-eminent historian of slavery. This new volume confirms that position. It is an important contribution to our understanding of the shaping of the modern western world.’
James Walvin, BBC History Magazine

‘Blackburn describes emancipation in all its vexed, indeterminate grandeur,
propelled by violent clashes, public debate, harrowing exposés, and the consolidation of new notions of freedom and equality.’ Greg Grandin, Guardian

‘Blackburn writes authoritatively across centuries and continents.’
Joseph P. Reidy, Journal of American History

‘Poses a challenge for the political future as well as a bold reappraisal of the historical past.’ Stephen Howe, Independent

‘A marvellous book – insightful and stimulating.’
Stanley Engerman, University of Rochester

‘A magisterial history of transatlantic slavery.’ Ian Thomson, TLS

From the Trade Paperback edition.

BBC History Magazine
This is a richly scholarly book … an important contribution to our understanding of the shaping of the modern world.— James Walvin
Times Literary Supplement
Magisterial history of transatlantic slavery.
Independent
Poses a challenge for the political future as well as a bold reappraisal of the historical past.— Stephen Howe
The Nation
The finest one-volume history of the rise and fall of modern slavery.— Eric Foner
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844675692
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 5/9/2011
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Blackburn is a Leverhulme Research Fellow based at the University of Essex in the UK. He taught as a visitor at the New School for Social Research in New York between 2001 and 2010. He is the author of many books, including The Making of New World Slavery and The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery.
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