the business side of slavery

The disturbing parallels between modern accounting and the business of slavery (audio)
Kimberly Adams, August 14, 2018, Marketplace


Slavery in the United States was a business. A morally reprehensible — and very profitable business. Much of the research around the business history of slavery focuses on the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the business interests that fueled it. The common narrative is that today's modern management techniques were developed in the factories in England and the industrialized North of the United States, not the plantations of the Caribbean and the American South.

According to a new book by historian Caitlin Rosenthal, that narrative is wrong.

Rosenthal is an assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, and in her new book, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, she looks at the business side of slavery once it was well-established on plantations. Rosenthal argues that slaveholders in the American South and Caribbean were using advanced management and accounting techniques long before their northern counterparts. Techniques that are still used by businesses today. Below she explains a few examples from the book.


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Indian Slavery

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absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption

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“Politicians, Priests, and psychiatrists often face the same problem: how to find the most rapid and permanent means of changing a man’s belief…The problem of the doctor and his nervously ill patient, and that of the religious leader who sets out to gain and hold new converts, has now become the problem of whole groups of nations, who wish not only to confirm certain political beliefs within their boundaries, but to proselytize the outside world.” – William Sargant “Battle of the Mind”

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