The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 108
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Although this volume reflects the biases of the author's earlier work rather
than a new assessment of Johnson, it is based upon meticulous research. As a
capable synthesis of the available material, it should be read by all students of
Univerity of Tennessee RICHARD B. MCCASLIN
Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. By Robert
William Fogel. (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1989. pp. 539. Fore-
word, maps, graphs; tables, afterword, acknowledgments, notes, refer-
ences, index. $29.95.)
Robert W. Fogel wrote his name indelibly into the historiography of slavery
in the United States when he and Stanley L. Engerman published Tzme on the
Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery in 1974. By arguing that slavery
was flourishing economically, that slave workers were more efficient than free
laborers, that slaves had a notably varied set of occupational skills, and that
bondsmen had a strong family life, lie and his coauthor brought down upon
themselves a torrent of criticism. Indeed, entire volumes condemned their
quantitative methods and conclusions as nothing more than a "numbers game"
seeking to defend the Peculiar Institution.
Without Consent or Contract marks Fogel's farewell to the historiographical
battleground of slavery, ending "an intellectual journey that has lasted more
than two decades" (p. 13). In some respects, the book is reminiscent of Time on
the Cross. For example, the first six chapters present summaries of Fogel's argu-
ments and interpretations concerning certain economic and social aspects of
slavery, while the technical evidence and quantitative methods underlying these
conclusions are published in three companion volumes. Cliometrics, to use
Fogel's word, is not much given to usual forms of historical exposition, and
these chapters require the reader to have either a good deal of faith or a will-
ingness to wade into complicated economic data and theory. The last four
chapters, however, are completely different from the first six, and unlike any-
thing in Time on the Cross, in that they employ tra(litional sources to present an
essentially narrative account of the campaign against slavery in (;Great Britain
and the United States.
The larger argument emerging from the two parts of this book is as follows:
Slavery was productive, efficient, profitable, and yielded a high rate of eco-
nomic growth. This did not mean, however, that it was a "good" thing. There is
no link between economic success and moral virtue. Slavery, regardless of how
it operated economically, was immoral because it meant unrestrained domina-
tion for one person over another and denied economic opportunity, citi-
zenship, and cultural self-identification to the slaves. Indeed, just such moral
considerations led to its destruction. The death of slavery, Fogel writes, was "an
act of 'econocide,' a political execution of an immoral system at its peak of eco-
nomic success, incited by men ablaze with moral fervor. Slavery deserved to die
despite its profitability and efficiency because it served an immoral end"
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page .
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/136/ocr/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.