Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery

Book Review

'Capitalism and Slavery' by Eric Williams, first published in 1944, is one of the most celebrated accounts of Caribbean history during the post war period. The author takes a hard stance on Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and its impact across the globe. William timed his writing during the period when British colonialism was deeply rooted in Caribbean culture. Some of the issues addressed in the book include slave trade, its effect in the society, and the basis of its abolition. It is no doubt that the book has experienced significant success in the Caribbean region as well as in the entire globe.

William juxtaposes the introduction of capitalism along with economic factors of slave trade. In his view, slavery was very profitable to the economy, but prior to the abolition of slave trade, profitability of slavery declined significantly. This was one of the reasons for the abolition of slavery and slave trade. William argues that the correlation between British economy and the commerce of African slaves is clear evidence of the advancement of British capitalism. Consequently, the development of capitalism created a platform for the abolition of slavery. William asserts that capital gain was the major driving force for the importation of slave labor from African countries. Since the labor was free, there was an assurance of high capital returns.

Many researchers agree that the book covers a multitude of issues that are beyond its scope. William has clearly shown how slave trade aided the development of western capitalism. He has provided a detailed account of circumstances behind importation of human and natural resources. Perhaps what the books fails to highlight is the condition of work that gave rise to the design of slave trade. Even though he closely examines the continual thrive of European economy at the expense of African countries, his main intent is to bring out the monetary benefits of slave trade. He relies on the economic contributions of slave trade and not on the conditions of slavery.

William speaks out on slavery in a manner that is relevant to the world today. It boils down to importation of natural resources from African countries, and the exportation of the finished products back to Africa. This clearly defines the current relationship between African and European colonies.

This text is important for African Americans in understanding their role in western economies. The book gives a detailed account regarding the foundation of western capitalism. I would recommend the book for economics students who would wish to major on economic independence among the African American community. Apart from history, the book is also relevant to other fields of study such as economics, political science, and sociology.