haruki zaemon

Capitalism and Slavery, Third Edition by Eric Williams

  1. by Simon Harris
  2. Apr 2, 2022

Williams battled the establishment to get his book published, eventually financing it himself. To my layperson’s eyes, he puts forward an eye-opening and compelling narrative that capitalism as we know it has its roots in white supremacy, racism, and slavery.

I got the impression that Williams was writing for a majority white, largely racist, academic audience and, while he touches on other countries, he focuses primarily on Britain as the model for slavery across the globe.

One thing that continues to ring in my ears since I read (actually listened to) the book is something Williams calls “The Triangular Trade”: Britain took people from Africa and enslaved them in the West Indies to cultivate crops. Those crops were sent to Britain and powered the manufacturing industries of Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow, etc. Manufactured goods were then shipped across the globe, including to the colonies in Africa.

In the end, slavery was abolished in Britain not due to idealism or humanitarianism, but through the resistance of Africans themselves and because, in the battle between the old Mercantile and new Industrialist classes, it was no longer profitable.