Slavery, Atlantic Trade and the British Economy, 1660–1800 by Kenneth Morgan download in iPad, ePub, pdf
The summaries are accurate, the tone is judicious, the writing is clear, and the range of material surveyed is such that this reviewer found several references that were new to him. The appearance of this slim volume summarizing the recent debates is thus certainly timely. In short, students will find this booklet both accessible and helpful, but specialists will also profit from it. There remain, however, scholars for whom Williams's claims about the profits from slavery and British capital accumulation retain much merit.
Scholars at the beginning of the twenty-first century find the mix of race, coercion, economic growth and morality it offers too potent to ignore. Exposure to the Atlantic was clearly not enough to pull other European economies into early industrialization. Recent revisions of aggregate British output patterns, are scarcely touched on.
Instructors should be aware that Cambridge will shortly publish a full-length synthesis and reinterpretation of the whole subject. In this respect, the debate between slavery and the British Industrial Revolution that Williams helped to ignite almost sixty years ago remains very much alive. New papers on the British balance of payments and the Atlantic economy, insurance, and ownership structures will also appear in the next few months. In the course of his discussion, he accepts that Eric Williams and his followers probably exaggerated the profitability of the slave trade and slave plantation complex. It is on the first set of issues that Morgan focuses in his booklet.
The chapter on ports scarcely mentions the slave trade, much less the work of Maurice Schofield and Nigel Tattersfield on the English outports. Yet it is hard to imagine Atlantic trade without slavery and the slave trade. In fairness to Morgan, he does acknowledge this challenge. For an introduction to the subject, and this study will obviously find its main market among students, it would have been better to maintain the course set in the earlier chapters.
To return to the opening remark, however, a topic that is active enough to warrant a title in this essentially historiographic series will of necessity be quickly out of date. Williams's failure was perhaps excusable, if only because data on the scale and profitability of transatlantic slavery were very patchy at the time he wrote. Specifically, he seeks to address three questions. Moreover, others, including Morgan, have sought to explore more thoroughly than Williams other possible lines of connection between slavery, external trade and British industrialization.
Implicit in this chapter is the position that new and expanding Atlantic markets could have had no substitutes. Specialists will note a few minor omissions. It also involves conceptual issues that Williams and his followers tend to neglect and that, sadly, Morgan bypasses in his otherwise useful review of the literature.
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