Nov 10, 2017 in Literature

Response Paper on Capitalism and Slavery


The book Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams is based on the study the author made about the birth of the industrialization era and the emergence of capitalism, where slave trade was a dominant economic activity. The slaves, particularly the Africans,  commonly referred to as Negros in the book, in Great Britain were the means of capital, which aided the industrialization financially. The study consisted of two phases, one in England and the other in India, and was mainly keen on how slavery enhanced or contributed to advancement of capitalism in Great Britain. I tend to agree with the author’s concept of slave labor and the free hired workers. He states that the slavery relates not to virtue or morals but to economic advantages and production.


Whatever led to slavery, in my own opinion, was a need to cut cost on large scale production. The author mentions Smith’s argument on the reasons for slavery being pride and the need for power. The author apparently attributes the reasons to the limited population in Europe. He claims that the hired laborers from the same race were too few to facilitate cultivation of the staple crops on large scale production (Williams, 127). To save the situation, the whites shifted their attention to the slaves, who turned out to be Africans.

There is the question of which is more cost saving, free hired labor or the slave labor. From where I sit, slave labor is largely composed of unskilled and demoralized individuals, who work out of pressure and do not need to take the responsibility. The author gives a scenario where the cost of maintaining the slave labor exceeds that of hiring workers (Williams, 138). This resulting from recruiting more slaves to a population that has exceeded the land already set for appropriation by slave masters.

A contradicting opinion developed on the hierarchy of two phenomena or what led to the birth of the other, slavery or racism. The author attributes racism to slavery, because slavery is what created the contention between the Asians, Africans and the Europeans. I rather hold a different opinion about the issue. From my point of view, it is the dislike of Negros and Indians and their unworthiness to the whites that made them the victims of slavery (Williams, 147).

The author outlines the emergence of Negro slavery in a series of events. I am fascinated by the reasons that led to the shift of slavery from Indians, who were originally the victims of slave trade. The Indians, as the book states, were faced with the challenge of adjusting to the new slavery environment (Williams, 160). Ortiz, as mentioned in the book, calls the exposure of Indians to plantations, mines and hard work without religious rituals a slavery of the collective spirit. The Indians were described as insufficient, inefficient unprofitable and unable to endure physical hardship and resistance to disease. Indian slavery was seen as a colonial interest and a preventive penalty for not accepting Christianity.

The author presents a comparison as adopted by the Spanish, where four Indians were considered equal in worth to one Negro. The Indians were considered weak and limited in number compared to Negros (Williams, 157). The author uses the term “inexhaustible” to describe the extent of working power. The prices paid for the Negroes were higher than those paid for the Indians. In my own opinion, permission to import Negroes was not granted. The author states that they were stolen in Africa due to the fact that legal process was not followed. This marked the emergence of Negro slavery.


In conclusion, the idea highlighted in the three chapters of the books leads people to understanding tribalism, slavery should not be practiced either at work place or home. People should respect other values.

Related essays