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Basic Books
  • Hardcover
  • $35.00 / $40.50 CAN
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-465-00296-2
Winner of the 2015 Avery O. Craven OAH Award
Winner of the 2015 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism

Daily Beast Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
"The real takeaway from this thoughtful, unsettling history: 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."

Bloomberg View Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2014
"In this assiduously researched and tightly argued volume, Baptist gives us what is by far the finest account of the deep interplay of the slave trade (especially within the nation's borders) and the development of the U.S. economy."

Providence Journal Best Books of 2014
"Baptist's exhaustively researched, elegantly written and provocatively argued book details the connection between the growth of the institution of human bondage and economic innovations from 1783-1861."

The Half Has Never Been Told

Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

By Edward E. Baptist

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 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. Until the Civil War, Baptist explains, the most important American economic innovations were ways to make slavery ever more profitable. Through forced migration and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from enslaved African Americans. Thus the United States seized control of the world market for cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and became a wealthy nation with global influence.

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. It forces readers to reckon with the violence at the root of American supremacy, but also with the survival and resistance that brought about slavery's end—and created a culture that sustains America's deepest dreams of freedom.

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.
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