Cover image for 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
Baptist, Edward E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, [2014]
Physical Description:
xxvii, 498 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
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.
The heart : 1937 -- Feet : 1783-1810 -- Heads : 1791-1815 -- Right hand : 1815-1819 -- Left hand : 1805-1861 -- Tongues : 1819-1824 -- Breath : 1824-1835 -- Seed : 1829-1837 -- Blood : 1836-1844 -- Backs : 1839-1850 -- Arms : 1850-1861 -- The corpse : 1861-1937.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library E441 .B337 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Audubon Library E441 .B337 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Eggertsville-Snyder Library E441 .B337 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library E441 .B337 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Frank E. Merriweather Library E441 .B337 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
East Delavan Branch Library E441 .B337 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A sweeping, authoritative history of the expansion of slavery in America, showing how forced migrations radically altered the nation's economic, political, and cultural landscape.
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 E. 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.
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.

Winner of the 2015 Avery O. Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians

Winner of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize

Bloomberg View Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2014

Daily Beast Best Nonfiction Books of 2014

Author Notes

Edward E. Baptist is an associate professor of history at Cornell University. Author of the award-winning Creating an Old South , he grew up in Durham, North Carolina. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* While Americans like to look at slavery as a pre-modern labor system, tinged by racist and moralistic perspectives, Baptist argues that slavery was the major economic engine that helped to propel the growth of the U.S. in the nineteenth century and eventually make it a world power. Baptist renders history and economics with the power of prose that seeks to tell a fuller story than has been told of American slavery, drawing on plantation records and the personal narratives of former slaves interviewed by Works Progress Administration workers. Riffing on Ralph Ellison's depiction of the African American body as the site of the American drama, Baptist offers chapters on head, feet, hands, tongues, arms, and backs to describe the aggressive push to maintain enslaved labor, the violence and power wielded to expand slavery, and the resistance of slaves and abolitionists. He details the significance of slavery to cotton cultivation and the significance of cotton in fueling the economy of the industrial North. As U.S. capitalism supported by slavery grew, so did the politics to support it, influencing the allocation of state representation and even the presidency for 70 years. An insightful look at U.S. slavery and its controversial role in the much-celebrated story of American capitalism.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Baptist (Creating an Old South) has written a book that truly deepens and broadens our understanding of slavery. Through an incredible amount of detail and the use of an array of primary sources, the author argues that the South's use of slave labor in cotton production was the primary factor in the United States becoming a leading modern industrial nation. He tells his story more or less chronologically but structures each chapter around a theme derived from a part or aspect of the human body: blood, head, arms, breath, and so on. Made up of two distinct parts, the book opens with seven chapters that cover the period from 1783 to 1837 and focus on the growth of slavery, delineating what life was like for slaves during this period. The final four chapters, which run from 1836 through the aftermath of the Civil War, detail the entrenchment of slavery and the political struggles over its continuation and expansion and consequently focus less on the lives of victims. VERDICT Professional historians and lay readers will pore over this book for years to come. Essential for all readers interested in American history and the history of slavery. Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Baptist's formidable work reveals how, between the Revolution and the Civil War, slave cotton production became the beating heart of the US economy, linking North and South with European finance. Slaves not only raised cotton to feed textile mills and serve as a critical market for factory-produced clothing and tools but also became a source of credit and wealth that flowed across the Atlantic and around the country. Baptist (Cornell) also shows how the "slave labor camps" that produced cotton were neither "backward" nor unproductive, but extremely efficient capitalist enterprises that tortured and manipulated African Americans to squeeze maximum labor without compensation. 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. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. --Daniel Richard Mandell, Truman State University

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