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Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History
by Ian Baucom
In September 1781, the captain of the British slave ship Zong ordered 133 slaves thrown overboard, enabling the ship’s owners to file an insurance claim for their lost “cargo.” Accounts of this horrific event quickly became a staple of abolitionist discourse on both sides of the Atlantic. Ian Baucom revisits, in unprecedented detail, the Zong atrocity, the ensuing court ca ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 16th 2005 by Duke University Press Books
(first published November 2nd 2005)
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Engrossing, encompassing, inflamed: from the multiple threads of liberal philosophy, contemporary hermeneutics, and new historicism Baucom crafts an elegant telling of two stories: one, a historical narrative about events; and, two, an event which narrates how we tell history. Baucom touches on critical figures such as Adam Smith and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel through to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Edouard Glissant; his reference points inevitably returning to the Zong atrocity and the que ...more
Where to start. Baucom examines the oscillations between commodity and finance capital systems, but focuses specifically on the "long 20th century" of finance capital that stretches back into the 18th century. He draws on Benjamin to develop a philosophy of history that emphasizes history's presence in the now, what he calls the constellation of past and present. He does this all by drawing upon the trope of the slaveship Zong, and manages to convey that event as both typical of finance capital ...more