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American Slavery: 1619-1877 (Penguin history) Paperback – 23 Feb 1995


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (23 Feb 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140241507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140241501
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"A miraculous achievement . . . A concise, well-written, and sensibly argued survey of America's greatest shame." ---"The New Yorker" "Peter Kolchin's "American Slavery "is the best history of the 'peculiar institution' that I have ever read. Paying equal attention to the slaves and the slaveholders, it is both comprehensive and fair-minded. A master of comparative history, Kolchin brilliantly shows how American slavery was similar to, and at the same time different from, forced labor in Brazil, the Caribbean, and Russia. His splendid bibliographical essay is an indispensable guide to the vast and complex literature on slavery."--David Herbert Donald, Charles Warren Professor of American History Emeritus, Harvard University "This is a brilliant and masterful synthesis of scholarship on the history of slavery in America. Kolchin not only pulls together all the relevant literature but also strikes out with his own perceptive and trenchant analyses.--August Meier, Kent State Unive

About the Author

Peter Kolchin is Professor of History at the University of Delaware. Winner of the Bancroft Prize in American history, his other books include Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom and A Sphinx on American Land.

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First Sentence
ALTHOUGH AMERICANS LIKE to think that the United States was "conceived in liberty," the reality is somewhat different. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Slavery runs, like a gash, through the story of America, painful and unavoidable. Recent histories of the United States have underlined this fact clearly: Schama's The American Future, Kagan's Dangerous Nation, Thomas Bender's slightly older A Nation Among Nations. The election of Barack Obama is remarkable because of this particular aspect of history and its legacy.

Peter Kolchin's American Slavery isolates the subject itself, concentrating not upon slavery within the context of other American History but on slavery as the context itself.

Starting with the early colonial days, Kolchin traces the development of the slave economy in the US, using as points of comparison slavery in the rest of the Americas and serfdom in Russia. Bringing together many strands, the author admits from the outset that he has inevitably, within the space of less than 250 pages, sacrificed detail for a broad brush picture. This is very noticeable, and some of the omissions are, to this reviewer, very strange, and require only a scan of the index to spot.

For example, neither the battles of Antietam, the "winning" of which emboldened Lincoln to issue the Proclamation of Emancipation, or of Gettysburg, which broke the back of the Confederacy, gets a mention, and the Underground Railroad, by which southern blacks escaped to non-slaving states in the north, is over and done with after a couple of paragraphs. The annexation of Texas, the driver for which Kagan has given as a desire by slavers for an increase in the number of slaving states for political purposes, bears no comment at all.

The account is not without controversy.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Mar 2000
Format: Paperback
It is impossible to over-state just what a superb book this is. Peter Kolchin covers the entire scope of slavery in America from its colonial origins to its destruction following the Civil War and everything else in between in an accessible and highly readable manner. From a casual, passing interest, right up to degree-level, "American Slavery" is nothing less than essential to anyone wanting to understand the 'peculiar institution'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Aug 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book gives an excellent overview of American slavery between 1619-1877. It looks at the slaves' existence during the colonial era, the revolution, through till the civil war and end of slavery.
It considers the way of life for the slaves and also the 'owners'. The general attitude of the south in comparison to the north and the economic differences due to slavery.
It is easy to read as it adopts an anecdotal style. This particular style allowed me to get to know individuals and allowed me to empathise with their conditions and lives.
It also provides a tremendous amount of statistical information which adds rather than detracts from the flow of the narrative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Wieder on 13 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is indeed a very good account of all aspects of American slavery from its roots in the 17th century to its demise in the 19th. It is very informative, and backed by some statistical tables at the end of the book. The book describes clearly the transition in the perception of slavery, from a purely financial tool, to the very institution that epitomizes the south. I was surprised to learn for example that the very first slaves were actually white. These people were Europeans who sold themselves to slavery so to speak, usually escaping debtors, and while in bondage, were treated no differently than the black slaves. The difference was that for whites it was temporary - for a period of several years.
The book also draws interesting parallels between American slavery and slavery elsewhere in the Americas, and serfdom in Russia.
I see two shortcomings to this book
- I would have liked a larger section on post war reconstruction, it is there, but is rather small, given that the book is about slavery itself it is probably not a major point.
- The style is rather dry, the topic is interesting and yet on occasion I found myself forcing myself to continue reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dewdrop on 20 April 2011
Format: Paperback
This book tackles the subject of American slavery in a very balanced and unbiased way. It tries to portray the 'peculiar institution' in a way that neither demonises the slave owners nor portrays the conditions under which the slaves lived as being universally terrible (beyond the fact of enslavement). It also tries to show how American slavery was different and similar to slavery in the Caribbean and South America. This is still a very highly charged and emotive subject in the US and this book manages to present the material in an objective and scholarly way. At the same time the author manages to avoid the excessive jargon that spoils so many history books. By the end of the book you can feel that you have a good solid understanding of the basic of American slavery. The footnotes at the back of the book do not distract, and the bibliographical essay gives you a comprehensive cross-section of works in order to pursue the subject further. One of the best.
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Format: Paperback
As a completely new student of American slavery this book was absolutely brilliant.

First and most significantly, it gave me a great understanding of the origins, evolution and nature of slavery in America, in an understandable and accessible way. In this book, the author doesn't just chuck facts at you; he explains them, using them to illustrate the effect slavery had on American society and to demonstrate the extent to which slavery shaped society, culture, and life, for both white and black people from the colonial era through to emancipation and reconstruction.

Some things I found more interesting than others, such as the development of African American culture and the justifications and arguments for and against slavery, other things, such as the the development of agricultural apparatus and intense descriptions of Americas biggest exports sometimes (only very occasionally) make the book seem dry. One the whole, the book is brilliantly engaging and informative, filled with relevant facts and important events that affected and shaped the direction of the "peculiar institution".

Secondly, and perhaps that which I am most grateful for, is the way the author has introduced me a plethora of primary sources for the further study of American slavery. Throughout the book, the author quotes from diverse and often divergent sources and, at the very end of the book, is a comparatively short bibliographical essay that lists sources such as slave narrative, slave owner diaries and other secondary sources dealing with the history of American slavery.
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