U.S. Slaves, U.S. Cotton, and the British Economy 1815-1860: What Can Time Series Tell Us about "the New History of Capitalism?"

Sam Shirazi, Stony Brook University, State University of New York (SUNY)

The "New History of Capitalism" has challenged innovation-based and institutional narratives of British economic growth during the Industrial revolution. The contention that British economic growth is in some way connected to slave systems and slave commodities is at the heart of this new orientation. However, there has been little effort in harnessing the power of historical data to add to this debate. This paper explores the link between U.S. cotton production, the slave population in the Southern U.S., and British economic indicators. First, a panel general estimating equation (GEE) approach is implemented to clarify the relationship between the U.S. slave population and cotton production from 1820 to 1860. Second, bivariate and multivariate cointegration models are used to understand the relationship between annual cotton production in the U.S., British imports of U.S. cotton, and aggregate British cotton consumption on British export values 1815 to 1860. Preliminary results indicate that increases in the slave population in the "New South" are associated with increased cotton production while increases in the slave population have no real effect on cotton production in the "Old South" region. Additionally, aggregate British cotton consumption, British imports of U.S. cotton, and U.S. cotton production are cointegrated; indicating they move in response to each other. Lastly, impulse response analysis hints that export values are responsive to British imports of U.S. cotton and aggregate British cotton consumption. Overall, there does seem to be some relationship between slave-produced U.S. cotton and British exports in the time of the British industrial revolution, perhaps it is too early to dismiss the "New History of Capitalism."

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 Presented in Session 146. Slavery and Its Economic Legacy