Historian Edward E. Baptist visited Google’s Cambridge, MA office to discuss his book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”. As he shows in the book, slavery and its expansion were central to the evolution and modernization of our nation in the 18th and 19th centuries, catapulting the US into a modern, industrial and capitalist economy. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a sub-continental cotton empire. By 1861 it had five times as many slaves as it had during the Revolution, and was producing two billion pounds of cotton a year. It was through slavery and slavery alone that the United States achieved a virtual monopoly on the production of cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and was transformed into a global power rivaled only by England.
Dr. Baptist is Associate Professor of History at Cornell. “The Half Has Never Been Told” is his second book; his first was “Creating an Old South: Middle Florida’s Plantation Frontier Before the Civil War”.