Monday, August 22, 2011

Eric Foner on Niall Ferguson's Civilization

In this review of Robin Blackburn's new book, The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights, historian Eric Foner wryly notes that Niall Ferguson's television series Civilization managed to get most of the way through the following episode on the United States' nineteenth-century economic success before mentioning slavery.  (The first mention of slavery is at 35:44):

Foner writes that:
Among the [book's] many virtues ... is its demonstration that slavery must be at the center of any account of Western ascendancy. Without the colonization of the New World, Blackburn notes at the outset, the West as we know it would not exist, and without slavery there could have been no colonization. Between 1500 and 1820, African slaves constituted about 80 percent of those who crossed the Atlantic from east to west. More than any other institution, the slave plantation underpinned the extraordinary expansion of Western power and the region’s prosperity in relation to the rest of the world.
 For what it's worth, a book based on Ferguson's T.V. series will be published this fall.

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