Short-Term Fellow's Talk

July 16, 2014 - 4:00pm

Ahmed Reid, Bronx Community College (CUNY), Norman Fiering / Helen Watson Buckner Memorial Fellow. "Slavery and Economic Growth in the Age of Abolition, 1783-1807."

This informal talk will take place in the MacMillan Reading Room, with a display of important books. The talk will end at 5 p.m.

My project revisits one of the most contested themes in the historiography of British West Indian slavery and abolition. It provides some robust figures on the wealth of the colonies by outlining the productivity and increasing efficiency of their economies, and hence, shows that the decision to abolish slavery was—as Seymour Drescher suggested long ago, but without the empirical economic evidence to support his contentions—an economically bad decision. As such, it makes not just a strong economic argument but a compelling political argument, challenging the long-held views of Eric Williams in Capitalism and Slavery who argued that Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 because the British West Indian plantation colonies declined in profitability and importance.