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The Economist "Regrets" And Withdraws Slave Trade Book Review

The publisher apologised for complaining in a review of a new history of the slave trade that "almost all the blacks in his book were victims, almost all the whites villains".

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The Economist has apologised and withdrawn a review that criticised a historian for painting an unbalanced picture of the slave trade in the American South.

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In The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, historian Edward E. Baptist charts the evolution of slavery in the eight decades after American independence.

The review's concluding line said that the book's author "has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains."

There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil.We regret having published this and apologise for having done so. We have therefore withdrawn the review, but in the interests of transparency the text remains available only on this special page and appears below.
Another unexamined factor may also have contributed to rises in productivity. Slaves were valuable property, and much harder and, thanks to the decline in supply from Africa, costlier to replace than, say, the Irish peasants that the iron-masters imported into south Wales in the 19th century.Slave owners surely had a vested interest in keeping their 'hands' ever fitter and stronger to pick more cotton. Some of the rise in productivity could have come from better treatment. Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

Controversy over the review raged on Twitter and in the comment section of the original article on The Economist's website yesterday.

Check out the #EconomistBookReviews hashtag. Talk about accountability... and crowdsourced peer review! #loveit

Ebony Elizabeth@Ebonyteach

Check out the #EconomistBookReviews hashtag. Talk about accountability... and crowdsourced peer review! #loveit

10:23 PM - 04 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Don't believe they would have apologized 15 years ago. Totally a "new media" (whatever that means) thing.

Ta-Nehisi Coates@tanehisicoates

Don't believe they would have apologized 15 years ago. Totally a "new media" (whatever that means) thing.

2:49 PM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Using the #EconomistBookReviews hashtag, many people applied the review's argument – that something generally thought to be evil isn't necessarily that bad – to other books.

The portrayal of Lady Macbeth is relentlessly negative; it's entirely possible that her hands were in fact dirty #economistbookreviews

Penny Schenk@galoot

The portrayal of Lady Macbeth is relentlessly negative; it's entirely possible that her hands were in fact dirty #economistbookreviews

10:40 PM - 04 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

RT @AmericanStudier: There's no recognition at all of Sauron's impressive record creating jobs for orcs and growing the Mordor economy. #ec…

John Birmingham@JohnBirmingham

RT @AmericanStudier: There's no recognition at all of Sauron's impressive record creating jobs for orcs and growing the Mordor economy. #ec…

12:15 PM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Have we considered whether or not the sheriff's tax policy benefited Nottingham? Peasants were after all quite lazy. #EconomistBookReviews

Worthy Thane of Ross@Rossalincoln

Have we considered whether or not the sheriff's tax policy benefited Nottingham? Peasants were after all quite lazy. #EconomistBookReviews

6:23 AM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

RT @BoweryBoys: This is not an objective story of the Titanic. Almost all the passengers are victims, almost all icebergs villains. #econ…

Ken Wissoker@kwissoker

RT @BoweryBoys: This is not an objective story of the Titanic. Almost all the passengers are victims, almost all icebergs villains. #econ…

4:21 AM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

#economistbookreviews 1984 depicts a totalitarian state, but fails to show it's many benefits.

CL Holland@clhollandwriter

#economistbookreviews 1984 depicts a totalitarian state, but fails to show it's many benefits.

7:18 AM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Baptist, an associate professor at Cornell University, said this morning that he hopes the magazine finds a way to preserve the original article's comments, which are currently still online.

@AntheaButler Thanks! I hope the magazine doesn't take down the comments on their site, they were amazingly good.

Edward Baptist@Ed_Baptist

@AntheaButler Thanks! I hope the magazine doesn't take down the comments on their site, they were amazingly good.

2:11 PM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

However, some have praised the magazine for not simply deleting the article and instead republishing a version along with its apology.

Why that Economist apology is good: They actually apologize. They say for what, and why. They link to, and don’t disappear, the evidence.

Craig Silverman@CraigSilverman

Why that Economist apology is good: They actually apologize. They say for what, and why. They link to, and don’t disappear, the evidence.

2:44 PM - 05 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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