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Winner of the 2015 Avery O. Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians
Winner of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize
A groundbreaking history demonstrating that America's economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves
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.
"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'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 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)