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Monday, December 20, 2004

The business of slavery

Catching up on the news . . . (I've been consumed with end-of-the-semester obligations, which included giving an exam on Saturday evening [sic]).

Thursday's New York Times had an article (NYT, 12/16/04, D1, 9) about small steps taken recently to commemorate the slave market in Natchez, which was second in sales only to the New Orleans market. Although slavery is a standard topic in American economic history, the business of slavery has been flat-out ignored by business historians. This is not so surprising, given the historical orientation of the field of business history around big business and mass production, but it is shocking to realize that we know so little about a business that was so signficant and pervasive in the antebellum period, in North and South. Walter Johnson is not a business historian himself, but his book, Soul By Soul: Life in the New Orleans Slave Market (if I remember the subtitle right), does an admirable job of opening up the subject--"must" reading for business historians.

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