The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights, Robin Blackburn, London: Verso, 2011

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

Plantation slavery in the New World, in particular its relationship to the emergence of capitalism in Europe and North America, has long been a subject of debate and discussion among historians and social scientists. While there are literally thousands of monographs studying various aspects of chattel slavery in the US South, the Caribbean and Brazil, only a handful of works attempt to provide a synthetic account of its rise and decline from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Few scholars, on the Left or Right, have made as profound a contribution to such a history as Robin Blackburn. Blackburn’s latest work, The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights, does not simply summarise and update his earlier work, but extends his analysis to the rise and decline of ‘second slavery’ in nineteenth-century Cuba, Brazil and the US South. The American Crucible provides a multi-causal explanation of the origins and abolition of New World plantation slavery, examining the complex interactions between the rise of capitalism, political crises in the metropolitan countries, the transformation of popular and elite attitudes toward slavery, and the struggles of the slaves themselves. However, Blackburn’s inability to grapple with the specific structure and dynamics of capitalist and slave social-property relations, and their changing historical relationship, weakens key elements of his analysis.

The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights, Robin Blackburn, London: Verso, 2011

in Historical Materialism

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References

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  • 1.

    Blackburn 1988.

  • 2.

    Blackburn 1997.

  • 3.

    Tomich 2004.

  • 4.

    Blackburn 1997Chapter 10.

  • 5.

    This argument is derived from Brenner 1985.

  • 6.

    De Vries 1994; Allen and Weisdorf 2011.

  • 7.

    James 1963; Genovese 1981Chapter Three.

  • 8.

    Ashworth 1995 and 2007.

  • 10.

    Brenner 1985.

  • 11.

    Brenner 1993Part I.

  • 12.

    Mintz 1985Chapter 3.

  • 13.

    The following is drawn from Wood 1988Chapter I.

  • 14.

    The following is drawn from Post 2011aChapter 3.

  • 15.

    Tomich 2004p. 57.

  • 16.

    Tomich 1990p. 286.

  • 17.

    This analysis is drawn from Tomich 2004.

  • 18.

    Tomich 2004p. 61.

  • 19.

    The following is based on Post 2011aChapter 5 and Post 2011b.

  • 20.

    North 1961.

  • 21.

    Fishlow 1965a and 1965b; Hilliard 1972.

  • 22.

    North 1956; North 1961Chapter VII.

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