Eric Williams, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 1961 until his death in 1981, wrote a widely cited book about capitalism and slavery

Capitalism and slavery (1994), originally published in 1944, is a widely cited book. The citations have prompted me to read it.

The back cover of the Andre Deutsch paperback edition features a photograph of Eric Williams. An earphone is plugged into his ear; he is sitting at a desk with pen in hand. A rotary telephone is on a shelf behind him; he appears relaxed and at ease. He doesn’t appear as a person who would spend the day sitting at a desk.

The text below the photo reads:

Doctor Eric Williams was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 1961 until his death in 1981. He built his reputation as a historian as Professor of Political and Social Science at Howard University, before turning to active politics, founding the People’s National Movement and leading Trinidad and Tobago to independence in 1962. His other books are

History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago;

British historians and the West Indies;

Inward hunger – the education of a prime minister;

From Columbus to Castro: The history of the Caribbean 1492-1969.

Chapter 13 features four conclusions. The first (p. 210) highlights the decisive role of developing economic forces:

The commercial capitalism of the eighteenth century developed the wealth of Europe by means of slavery and monopoly. But in so doing it helped to create the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century, which turned round and destroyed the power of commercial capitalism, slavery, and all its works. Without a grasp of these economic changes the history of the period is meaningless.

Update

A Feb. 11, 2016 New York Times article is entitled: “Eric Foner Wins Historical Society Book Prize.”

The opening paragraphs read:

Eric Foner, the much-decorated Columbia University historian, will take on the title American Historian Laureate in April when the New-York Historical Society presents him with its annual American History Book Prize for “Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.”

The book, published by W.W. Norton, reconstructs the clandestine efforts by black and white abolitionists to help fugitive slaves passing through New York, a city with deep connections to the Southern cotton trade and the textile industry. The book also takes a broader view, exploring how these slaves and their allies in the Underground Railroad, while small in number, powerfully shaped national politics, playing a major role in sectional conflict and the coming of the Civil War.

Eric Foner’s riveting, inspiring story of fugitive slaves and the individuals who helped them to reach freedom contributes to our understanding of the history of Amercian slavery,” Louise Mirrer, the society’s president and chief executive said in a statement. The book’s emphasis on New York and the North as centers both of abolitionist activity and pro-slavery sympathies, she added, also “echoes our institution’s rich museum and library collections and programming,” including its major 2005 exhibition “Slavery in New York.

[End of excerpt]

Update

An Aug. 14, 2019n Guardian article is entitled: “Point Comfort: where slavery in America began 400 years ago.”

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