The Half Has Never Been Told

  • by Edward E. Baptist
  • Narrated by Ron Butler
  • 19 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In The Half Has Never Been Told, historian Edward E. Baptist reveals the alarming extent to which slavery shaped our country politically, morally, and most of all, economically. Until the Civil War, our chief form of innovation was slavery. Through forced migration and torture, slave owners extracted continual increases in efficiency from their slaves, giving the country a virtual monopoly on the production of cotton, a key raw material of the Industrial Revolution.
As Baptist argues, this frenzy of speculation and economic expansion transformed the United States into a modern capitalist nation. Based on thousands of slave narratives and plantation records, The Half Has Never Been Told offers not only a radical revision of the history of slavery but a disturbing new understanding of the origins of American power that compels listeners to reckon with the violence and subjugation at the root of American supremacy.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Slavery's Role in Creating American Prosperity

Would you listen to The Half Has Never Been Told again? Why?

Yes. In fact while both reading and listening to this challenging book, I continually went back several chapters to re-read and/or re-listen to it, so startling were the facts presented and the way in which they were presented.

Who was your favorite character and why?

This is a history book; the question is irrelevant.

What does Ron Butler bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He didn't do a great job with the accents of people whose speeches he was reading, but I give him a pass on this because the story was so absorbing that I did not care.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Please don't try to trivialize this serious book with such a silly question. If a film were ever made faithfully showing the horrible incidents of violence, rape and family destruction visited upon the slave population of early 19th century America by slave owners and traders as depicted in this book, it would be a nightmare vision which few could stomach and fewer could forget.

Any additional comments?

I was very disappointed that the New York Times did not see fit to include this book in its list of the 100 best books of 2014. It should have been on the 10 best books of 2014 list, but it wasn't there either of course. I love the United States, what it stands for, and its history. Mr. Baptist tells the underside of the story of the growth of American prosperity and economic power in the first half of the nineteenth century, which he shows to be the result of massively increased productivity in the growing and picking of cotton to feed the new mills of the Industrial Revolution through the use of the "whipping machine" of slavery and Congessional tolerance for new slave states and for interstate slave trading. He tells you a story using modern economic language and statistical analysis, for example that securitization of debt underlaid aspects of the slave trade just as it did the subprime mortgage bubble. The author combines this factual analysis with an imaginative structure and passion born of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man". If you love reading American history as much as I do, this is a book you absolutely must add to your list. It tells a story that really needs to be told, and really needs to be widely read and openly discussed.

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- Steve Winnett

outstanding, beautiful work of history

What made the experience of listening to The Half Has Never Been Told the most enjoyable?

This book is a new interpretation of the U.S. antebellum period that powerfully combines the reality of slavery, the economics of the internal slave trade, international trade & the industrial revolution (first in the UK and later in New England), financial innovation & speculation, and banking. Baptist is able show how absolutely central slavery was to the American economy in the 19th century, north and south.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The sections that described how southern cotton planters & their overseers actually industrialized manual cotton cultivation to achieve a tripling and quadupling productivity in the field.

Any additional comments?

The narrator is outstanding, he does well with great written material.

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- D. Littman "history buff"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-09-2014
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.