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Capitalism & Slavery

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  471 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected with the slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide. Eric Williams advanced these powerful ideas in "Capitalism and Slavery," published in 1944. Years ahead of its ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published October 14th 1994 by University of North Carolina Press (first published 1944)
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George Roper
Mar 05, 2016 George Roper rated it it was amazing
You will hear it often said that British West Indian (BWI) slavery was ended because it was no longer profitable for the slave owners. That assertion always seemed paradoxical to me. Eric Williams explains in a logical, dispassionate and cogent manner the real truths, which are this:
1) BWI slavery was instituted to meet the needs of the mercantile impulses of the 17th century (which reached their peak in the 18th century). In the end, commercial considerations also played a major part in its dem
David Anderson
Jun 01, 2015 David Anderson rated it it was amazing
Slavery was integral to the early development of capitalism, following the period of primitive accumulation of capital. The rise of industrial capitalism would not have been possible without the profits derived from slavery and the slave trade. Williams does a superb job of demonstrating how slavery turned Britain into an economic power. This book illustrates the economic aspects of the international slave trade and who benefited from it, how it contributed to capital formation and where did tha ...more
Sep 15, 2009 E rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the marginalia in this book just as much as the text itself; evidently, previous readers took great exception to Williams' thesis that capitalism, not racism, was the driving force behind the development of West Indian slavery and the slave trade. Although I too am doubtful that a racist logic wasn't anterior to slavery (even if, as another reviewer writes, "race" is not a transhistorical concept), these readers seemed to assign to Williams the position that because slavery was first a ...more
Gregory Klages
Dec 17, 2015 Gregory Klages rated it it was amazing
Williams wrote a highly influential, challenging, detailed history of the relationship between the economic gains to be made in the sugar trade that motivated the British and West Indians to develop and support slavery. The voluminous detail Williams includes reminded me of texts such as Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, and Tooze's Wages of Sin. In this respect, the book is not for the faint of heart, nor does it constitute 'light and informative' reading.

Williams' analysis is challenging in t
Nov 22, 2015 Carrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-favorites
Astoundingly ahead of its time - I would never have guessed that such a book was published in the 40s, and it's clearly an important foundation for later scholarly work on colonialism, race, and capitalism. Highly recommended reading - for me, it filled in historical gaps and challenged some really fundamental assumptions I didn't even know I held.
Aug 12, 2015 Maelanie rated it it was amazing
This history text is a must read for all people, but especially for the people who identify as a member of the Black, or non-white race. Do not be misled by the title, it is not a repetition of so many works that stress the atrocities of the Black Holocaust. It is a fresh and in depth historical revelation of the economic origins of slavery, and the fact that this is the number one reason for Britain's/Europe's amassing great wealth/power. It is supported by irrefutable facts, and it was an eye- ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Donna rated it it was amazing
Every Trini should read this book..
Okan Ergul
Jul 06, 2014 Okan Ergul rated it it was amazing
Williams bu eserinde gerçek ve derin bir tarihçi emeği ortaya koymuş. İngiliz kapitalizminin köle ticareti ve köle emeğiyle iç içe yükselişini öğretici bir şekilde ortaya koyuyor. Konuyu daha çok ekonomik ve finansal boyutlarıyla ortaya koyuyor, ama tabii ki bu kendisinin de mensubu olduğu siyah ırkın kölelikten çektiklerine duyarsız olduğu anlamına gelmiyor. Zaten bu ve benzeri eserleri İngiliz akademik çevrelerinde bir dışlanma yaşamasına yol açmış. Eser İngiltere örneğini temel almakla birlik ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Colleen rated it liked it
I've read this book several times, as a graduate student and professor, and I have always found fault with the arguments. I don't disagree that economics plays a part in abolition but that isn't the whole story. His arguments are a bit obtuse, and his tone entirety reflective of the time in which he wrote this. That said, this book is a classic and should be read by any student of the Atlantic World.
Jun 26, 2014 Baris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comps
This is one of the best books I have read during my graduate studies. Williams make a powerful case for the connection between slavery and capitalism, arguing that institution of slavery funded, or more accurately, made the necessary concentration of capital possible for the start of industrial capitalism in Britain. (I think crucial and the most impressive of the book is the section where he shows that the considerable number of early industrialists possessed slaves in the overseas or directly ...more
Nov 04, 2013 K rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The argument is simple: slavery helped in financing the British Industrial revolution via capital mobility and large scale investments and it was abandoned when it stopped being profitable. Whether the conclusion is true or false, this book remains a very serious economic analysis of slavery. It was written in 1944 and it's mostly focused around the British West Indies. It's also very cynical, with subtle commentary on the commodity status of human beings that would made any person's skin crawl.
Sep 12, 2015 Marcy rated it liked it
I cannot believe I have never read this book before now. It's certainly a classic. I especially found the relationship between the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism in India and in the Americas fascinating. I had not realised that the abolition movement in Britain was very much related to the sugar trade and to entrenching their colonies in Asia. The detailed facts and figures are also quite enlightening. A terrific book.
Jan 21, 2014 Simon rated it really liked it
A classic text, and a must-read for anyone interested in the topic of slavery.
Jun 15, 2008 Alanwalter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
This is a research book first and foremost. The main point of the book is that without slavery there is no capitalism. This is the book that convinced me to go back to school and get a degree in economics. While maybe not riveting it certainly is an information packed book that backs up its argument really well.
Trashy Pit
The Atlantic Slave Trade provided the investment capital needed to fund the development of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe. It's all here. Williams was the first to lay it all out. As a result, mainstream "historians" attacked and marginalized him. But he was basically right.
Beth Barnett
May 28, 2007 Beth Barnett rated it really liked it
Explanation of how the North was dependent on slavery in the South to develop its economy and to industrialize. Also discusses the complicity of North and South in the Triangle Trade between West Africa, the Caribbean, and the US during the centuries of slavery in America.
Scott Smith
Oct 01, 2010 Scott Smith rated it liked it
Interesting research, though a bit dated, it certainly shows its age. I wish he went more into the economics of America but it was mostly about the economics of slavery with regards to Britain.
John Armwood
Aug 17, 2013 John Armwood rated it it was amazing
Excellent. This should be required reading for every student studying the history of European and North and South American economics.
Feb 16, 2009 Msbongi rated it it was amazing
A classic must read for the history of who's who is slavery, not to mention the how, what, where and why.
William Warbucks
Feb 09, 2011 William Warbucks rated it it was amazing
One of the two most important books I've read in my lifetime.
Feb 27, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
Indispensable for Black History students.
Aug 20, 2011 William rated it it was amazing
One of my two greatest books of all-time.
Eugene Plawiuk
Must read
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“Here, then, is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of the labor. As compared with Indian and white labor, Negro slavery was eminently superior. “In each case,” writes Bassett, discussing North Carolina, “it was a survival of the fittest.” 2 likes
“The reasons for slavery, wrote Gibbon Wakefield, “are not moral, but economical circumstances; they relate not to vice and virtue, but to production.”13 With” 1 likes
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