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A World Transformed: Slavery in the Americas and the Origins of Global Power

James Walvin

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General & world history

A comprehensive study of how slavery and enslaved people shaped the modern world

How Slavery in the Americas Matters explores how slavery thrived at the heart of the entire Western world for more than three centuries. Arguing that slavery can only be fully understood by stepping back from traditional national histories, this book collects the scattered accounts of the most recent scholarship into a comprehensive history of slavery and its shaping of the world we know. Celebrated historian James Walvin tells a global story that covers everything from the capitalist economy, labor, and the environment, to social culture and ideas of family, beauty and taste.

This book underscores just how thoroughly slavery is responsible for the making of the modern world. The enforced transportation and labour of millions of Africans became a massive social and economic force, catalysing the rapid development of multiple new and enormous trading systems with profound global consequences. The labour and products of enslaved people changed the consumption habits of millions - in India and Asia, Europe and Africa, in colonised and Indigenous American societies. Across time, slavery shaped many of the dominant features of Western taste: items and habits or rare and costly luxuries, some of which might seem, at first glance, utterly removed from the horrific reality of slavery. Why Slavery in the Americas Matters traces the global impacts of slavery over centuries, far beyond legal or historical endpoints, confirming that the world created by slave labour lives on today.

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James Walvin

JAMES WALVIN is the author of many books on slavery and modern social history. His book, Crossings, was published by Reaktion Books in 2013. His first book, with Michael Craton, was a detailed study of a sugar plantation: A Jamaican Plantation, Worthy Park, 1670-1970 (Toronto, 1970). He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2006, and in 2008 was awarded an OBE for services to scholarship.

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