Eric Williams

Capitalism and Slavery
  • Capitalism and Slavery

  • 'It's often said that books are compulsory reading, but this book really is compulsory. You cannot understand slavery, or British Empire, without it' Sathnam Sanghera

    Arguing that the slave trade was at the heart of Britain's economic progress, Eric Williams's landmark 1944 study revealed the connections between capitalism and racism, and has influenced generations of historians ever since.


    Williams traces the rise and fall of the Atlantic slave trade through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to show how it laid the foundations of the Industrial Revolution, and how racism arose as a means of rationalising an economic decision. Most significantly, he showed how slavery was only abolished when it ceased to become financially viable, exploding the myth of emancipation as a mark of Britain's moral progress.

    'Its thesis is a starting point for a new generation of scholarship' New Yorker

Eric Williams (1911 - 1981) was a pioneering historian and politician born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He graduated with first-class honours from St Catherine's College, Oxford in 1935, and completed a DPhil in History in 1938. His dissertation, 'The Economic Aspects of the Abolition of the Slave Trade,' was published as Capitalism and Slavery in 1944, while he was a professor at Howard University. In 1956, Williams founded the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago's first modern political party. He led the country to independence from the British and became the nation's first prime minister in 1962.

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