America has the world’s richest economy and the world’s most powerful military, but how did the United States get to this level of power and prominence?
Despite all of the arguments that can be made about how, there is one thing that no one can deny — America, whether you like it or not, was built on the backs of slaves and the industrialization of cotton.
By the time of the Civil War, the United States supplied 77 percent of Great Britain’s cotton, 90 percent of France’s cotton, and 77 percent of Russia’s cotton, thus propelling America into economic prosperity – all while millions suffered.
A new book, titled “Empire of Cotton: A Global History,” examines how slavery and cotton made capitalism possible in the United States and Europe.
On Tuesday, author Sven Beckert joined Roland Martin on “NewsOne Now” via Skype to discuss his book and how slavery powered capitalism on a global scale.
Beckert told Martin:
“The shape of the global capitalist economy as it emerged in the past 200 years really needs to be first and foremost understood from the history of the central commodity, and that was cotton. And so cotton didn’t just matter to the United States, but it centrally mattered to the economy of Europe and was at the very origins of the world-altering industrial revolution that created the world in which we all live in today.”
“The peculiar thing about cotton … is that it does not grow in the continent of Europe, it had to come from elsewhere and it came principally in the late 18th and in the 19th century — it came from the United States and in the United States it was principally grown by enslaved workers.”
“In 1830, approximately one million Americans, nearly all of them enslaved, grew the cotton that fed the industrial revolution in England and France and Germany and of course, also in New England.”
“So this story of enslaved workers growing cotton is absolutely essential to understanding the history of capitalism in the long-term.”
Watch Martin and Beckert, author of “Empire of Cotton: A Global History,” discuss the impact slavery and cotton had on shaping the world we live in today in the video clip above.
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