Abolitionists were contemptuous of such self-serving nonsense, but they too tended to see slavery as an economically inefficient, and morally reprehensible, hangover from the premodern past… In ‘The Half Has Never Been Told,’ Edward E. Baptist takes passionate issue with such assumptions. He asserts that slavery was neither inherently inefficient nor a counterpoint to capitalism. Rather, he says, it was woven inextricably into the transnational fabric of early 19th-century capitalism…Baptist writes with verve and a good eye for the dramatic…”—
Wall Street Journal "Baptist has a knack for explaining complex financial matters in lucid prose.... The Half Has Never Been Told's underlying argument is persuasive."— New York Times Book Review "The overwhelming power of the stories that Baptist recounts, and the plantation-level statistics he's compiled, give his book the power of truth and revelation." — Los Angeles Times "It taught me so much about slavery and how slavery enabled America to become America. Every time I left my house after reading, I saw the world differently. I saw the legacy of human misery underpinning it all."— Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing "Baptist has a fleet, persuasive take on the materialist underpinnings of the 'peculiar institution.'"— Colson Whitehead, author of The Nickel Boys "By far the finest account of the deep interplay of the slave trade...and the development of the U.S. economy."— Stephen L. Carter "You cannot understand the economy of the U.S. - or even of the world -without an understanding of how its development was driven by 19th century slavery. This book gives you that, in a stunningly readable, heartbreaking form. Genius."— Mark Bittman, author of Animal, Vegetable, Junk “New books like ‘Empire of Cotton’ and ‘The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism’ by Edward Baptist offer gripping and more nuanced stories of economic history.”— Vikas Bajaj, New York Times "Thoughtful, unsettling.... Baptist turns the long-accepted argument that slavery was economically inefficient on its head, and argues that it was an integral part of America's economic rise."— Daily Beast “A stinging indictment of slavery.”— NPR Books “This book provides historical reference for the ways in which the enslavement of people for profit continues to impact and influence today’s institutions. A must-read for everyone who has ever heard the statement, ‘But slavery is over! Why can’t they just get over it?’ or ‘Well, you know white people were slaves, too.’” — Alicia Garza, The Atlantic “Digging into the large repository of oral histories from former slaves documented during the Great Depression, the book offers a moving account of suffering and resilience.”— NPR’S Code Switch "Wonderful.... Baptist provides meticulous, extensive, and comprehensive evidence that capitalism and the wealth it created was absolutely dependent on the forced labor of Africans and African-Americans, downplaying culturalist arguments for Western prosperity."— Nation "Baptist's real achievement is to ground these financial abstractions in the lives of ordinary people. In vivid passages, he describes the sights, smells and suffering of slavery. He writes about individual families torn apart by global markets. Above all, Baptist sets out to show how America's rise to power is inextricable from the suffering of black slaves."— Salon “Quite a gripping read. Baptist weaves deftly between analysis of economic data and narrative prose to paint a picture of American slavery that is pretty different from what you may have learned in high school Social Studies class.”— Huffington Post “A book unusual, even courageous, for its enormous ambition and admirable breadth…Baptist’s book is among the best single-volume studies of the relationship between the expansion of slavery and the political economy of the United States… The Half Has Never Been Told has offered the historical backdrop for the stirring declaration ‘black lives matter.’”— Times Literary Supplement “While on one level this is a work of persuasive and painstaking economic analysis, The Half Has Never Been Told never loses sight of the people whose commodification ‘shaped every crucial aspect of the economy and politics of the new nation’.”— Race and Class (UK) “A bold attempt to put slavery at the center of nineteenth-century capitalism.”— The Nation "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. Engagingly written and bursting with fresh, powerful, and provocative insights, this book deserves to be widely read, discussed, and debated."— Peniel Joseph, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and author of The Sword and the Shield "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. Edward 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 "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 "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 “Baptist has written an important book that is also indicative of a current trend in historiography that takes a highly critical view of the development of modern capitalism. It is refreshing.” — Matthew H. Crocker, The Historian “A prodigious work that stacks up a mountain of documentary evidence.”— American Interest “Wonderful… Baptist provides meticulous, extensive and comprehensive evidence that capitalism and the wealth it created was absolutely dependent on the forced labor of Africans and African-Americans, downplaying culturalist arguments for Western prosperity.” — Nation “In addition to smashing paradigms about antebellum slavery, the book features evocative explorations of how African Americans developed a common culture despite the individual and family devastation inflicted by ‘enslavers.’ In the final chapters, the author offers a useful interpretation of how sectional conflict emerged and intensified after 1840 despite a half-century of shared support for cotton slavery. The book gained wide notice after a hail of mocking tweets forced The Economist to withdraw an anonymous review, but it should gain fame for its trailblazing substance and style.”— Choice “Baptist makes us see an unpalatable truth: that slavery was a tough central strand of American history and that it was not antithetical to capitalism but rather symbiotic with it. Baptist’s fine book deserves to stand alongside Sven Beckert’s prize-winning Empire of Cotton: A Global History; both books indispensably illuminate slavery’s economic significance and its global reach.” — Virginia Magazine “[A] vital and enthralling book.”— Socialist Worker
The Half Has Never Been Told] covers a great deal of groundnot only economic enterprise but religion, ideas of masculinity and gender, and national and Southern politics. Baptist's work is a valuable addition to the growing literature on slavery and American development…Baptist has a knack for explaining complex financial matters in lucid prose.
The New York Times Book Review - Eric Foner
Cornell University historian Baptist (Creating an Old South) delivers 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. Delivered in a voice that fluidly incorporates both academic objectivity and coarse language, the book is organized into chapters named after a slave’s body parts (i.e., “Heads” and “Arms”), brutal images reinforced by the “metastatic rate” of the “endlessly expanding economy” of slavery in the U.S. in the first half of the 18th century. The “massive markets,” “accelerating growth,” and new economic institutions in America’s “nexus of cotton, slaves, and credit” lend credence to Baptist’s insistence that common conceptions of the slave South as economically doomed from the start are possible only in hindsight. At the dawn of the Civil War, he suggests, the South’s perception that it was a “highly successful, innovative sector,” was coupled with slave-owners’ belief that objections to slavery in the North rested not on moral concerns, but on fears of “political bullying” from the slave states. Baptist’s chronicle exposes the taint of blood in virtually all of the wealth that Americans have inherited from their forebears, making it a rewarding read for anyone interested in U.S.A.’s dark history. (Sept.)
Baptist argues that this country's success in the global marketplace stems directly from the brutal efficiency of slavery and that in that system cruelty and capitalism went hand in hand. (LJ 8/14)
A dense, myth-busting work that pursues how the world profited from American slavery.The story of slavery in America is not static, as Baptist (History/Cornell Univ.;Creating an Old South: Middle Florida's Plantation Frontier before the Civil War, 2001) points out in this exhaustive tome. It entailed wide-scale forced migrations from the lower East Coast to the South and West of the economically burgeoning United States. Following tobacco production along the Chesapeake Bay, slavery was embraced in the newly opened territories of Kentucky and Mississippi, where slaves were force-marched in coffles, separated from families, bought and sold to new owners, and then used to clear fields and plant indigo and the new cash crop, cotton. Although some advanced attempts to ban slavery—e.g., in the Northwest Ordinance—the newly hammered-out Constitution codified it by the Three-Fifths Compromise. In the name of unity, the delegates agreed with South Carolina’s John Rutledge that “religion and humanity [have] nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations.” Using the metaphor of a trussed-up giant body à la Gulliver, Baptist divides his chapters by body parts, through which he viscerally delineates the effects of the violence of slavery—e.g., “Feet” encapsulates the experience of forced migration through intimate stories, while “Right Hand” and “Left Hand” explore the insidious methods of the “enslavers” to solidify their holdings. Baptist moves chronologically, though in a roundabout fashion, often backtracking and repeating, and thoroughly examines every area affected by slavery, from New Orleans to Boston, Kansas to Cuba. He challenges the comfortable myth of “Yankee ingenuity” as our founding growth principle, showing how cotton picking drove U.S. exports and finance from 1800 to 1860—as well as the expansion of Northern industry.Though some readers may find the narrative occasionally tedious, this is a complicated story involving staggering scholarship that adds greatly to our understanding of the history of the United States.