Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #1

Marco Ng

His 1000

Professor Griffin


One historical event that stood out to me in the Fulcher’s Capitalism is the capitalist productions. This event stood out to me because of how much the idea correlate with the current time period. In one way you can see that the way we think about how production and cost affect the overall growth of individuals. In the text one evidence that helps this claim is “Gaining experience and making some money in the manufacture of cotton machinery, they set up their own firm in 1795”. (Fulcher,7) In this quote, this means that when you see a success of one thing, privatized firms will start to monopolize on the ideas. With the competitiveness of the industries, many people will soon to hop on to the ideas causing a mass production of a certain product. However, for the growth of a company/ the individuals, there has a to be either a uniqueness or a bigger growth than others. This allows them to either have a monopoly or their product has a uniqueness that allows it to succeed. Also in this article, the profit is shown tto be the workers who turn the cotton into yarn. This also correlates with the modern times because of how much, the workers really impact the growth and success of the company. Without the workers, the production and the company itself, will not be able to sustain and make profits. Another good from this that really shows how much the industry has not changed from back the early 1800s to now, is “by requiring long continuous work during work hours and ruling out non- work activity, employers had separated leisure and work.” I thought this quote was interesting because of the truth behind it. In today’s world, most people changed how much work should be different from work life and this really allows us to enjoy time we have off.

Blog Post #1

     The reading “Capitalism, A Very Short Introduction” by James Fulcher goes in-depth into the history of capitalism. Fulcher regards capitalism as “essentially the investment of money in the expectation of making a profit.” (Fulcher 2) The scarcity and distance fundamentally determine the outcome of an expedition. This reading also introduced three forms of capitalism. The three forms being: merchant capitalism, capitalist production, and financial capitalism. 

     Merchant capitalism being the earliest form of capitalism (started in the seventeenth century), was the term given to the idea of traveling to source undersupplied goods to make a profit. This journey was accompanied by a lot of risk and distance brought along more profit, along with the increased risk factor already present regardless. Usually, these trips would be made with multiple ships to avoid losses, especially under unknown circumstances. Through this method, there is a higher chance of bringing back goods and making a profit. 

     Capitalist production was coined to the idea of private ownership of businesses in hopes of gaining a profit. Fulcher introduced capitalist production by telling the story of James M’Connel and John Kennedy, who have made an earning in the manufacture of cotton machinery. This portion of the reading continues as it informs the readers of their success. Often, leaders involved in capitalist production would profit off their employees from their work and pay low wages. This caused conflict in the workforce as workers would constantly be working to help produce profit for the employers and the number of time workers had split between working and leisure time was up for debate. 

     The most modern term regarding capitalism is financial capitalism. This form of capitalism concerns financial enterprises. An example in the modern world can include the stock market. If an individual manages to play their cards right in this market, one can gain a considerable profit. If you are unlucky like Nick Leeson, you can miss out on a massive profit to the point of being in the negative digits. Leeson’s losses resulted in the bankruptcy of Barings Bank. 

     As Fulcher points out in the reading, each form of capitalism is very different, but all are subject to the same goal of investing money to gain a profit in return. “The various business activities involved are about as different as they could be, but all involve the investment of money in order to make a profit, the essential feature of capitalism.” (Fulcher 14) The question arises as to why leaders follow the acts of capitalism, knowing its unethical practices. One can hypothesize that it is for one’s values to dominate in society. This can be seen in how leaders supported the idea of slavery and stripped African Americans of their rights, especially when stated in the constitution (changed after ratifying the 13th amendment). I also find it interesting how in history, many sought rare goods. However, in the modern-day fashion industry or overall, teens tend to follow trends to the point of ignoring ethical practices. Teens today shop from SheIn, namely, one of the most unethical and unsustainable brands. This topic catches my eye as I am heavily invested in the sustainable fashion industry. It would be intriguing to look into the history of fashion and textiles to see what drew this change.


Blog Post #1 Fulcher (Capitalism)

This reading follows the idea of Capitalism and the different forms seen throughout history. Merchant Capitalism was the earliest form where profit was made from trading scarce products across long distances. One of the downsides of this was that it “required a heavy investment of capital in the expectation of large profits”(Fulcher 4). The second form was Capitalist production, which relied largely on wage labour to make profit. The third form of Capitalism mentioned in the reading is Industrial capitalism. It was similar to capitalist production but was a little more advanced. All of these had pros and cons but are still seen in our capitalist society. Today, the whole economy has become dependent on investment of capital to prosper, we don’t just rely on trade, but production as well.

Before I didn’t really understand what was involved when it came to capitalism. I knew what it entailed yet couldn’t grasp the concept and connect it to the issues we face in our economy today. This reading gave me more insight on it and shed light to the injustices that were seen back then and actually still prevalent now. For example, The exploitation of workers in the cotton mill company around 1839. By that time the industry had around 1,815 mills, which would later increase even more. This meant that they would need a lot of workers to manage the machines and because they needed a heavy amount of profit, the workers had to operate day and night. Most of the labour was “cheap child labour and at times nearly half of those employed were under the age of 16″(Fulcher 5). It progressively got worse when the ages began to start lower to 7 year olds working from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm. Although wage labour is considered “free”, it’s also “unfree” in a sense because when one lives in a capitalist society, it’s almost impossible to survive without paid work. Not to mention in early capitalist society there were very little job opportunities available which may have led to employer manipulation and in this case inhumane acts like child labour. We don’t see child labour today but there are still workers being paid way less than they should for the long shifts they take to make capital for large companies  or institutions. My new attained knowledge on capitalism really changed the way I viewed this part of American history because I feel it’s wrong to mainly depend of wage labour for our economy to flourish. New ways should be found instead of making people think paid work is the only way to  provide for themselves and their families.

Fulcher’s “Capitalism a Very Short Introduction”

In James Fultcher’s “Capitalism a Very Short Introduction,” the text illuminates the fact that capitalism was part of the founding ideas that ended up being one of the founding principles that the Americas were built on. No matter the ethics of the situation capitalism will always end up working against the means of the worker instead of for the worker. By definition capitalism is “essentially the investment of money in expectation of making a profit.” In the case of Fulcher’s writing this is exactly how the colonization and capitalistic ideals were spread through the United States. Both capitalism and imperialism can be compared based on the rising ideals of the companies and countries in order to make large profits. As in the case of The East India Company it was evident that the traveling was based entirely on the confidence of the investors that they were going to be able to make the voyage and make it back. First, nobody really cared about the working conditions of these people because in the investors mind their only problem was growing their money. Secondly, disregarding the ethics of the situation and only looking at the financial risks, this expedition was very risky for the investors. Even if they sent out multiple ships in order to minimize the risk of losing one of them it still was an increasing amount of risk. 

Touching on the situation of labour in the New World it shows how unethical the process of Capitalism was during this era. Between slavery, indentured servants, and child labour, companies were for anyway to produce “cotton” because it was such a profitable process they were looking passed the ethics in order to produce the money possible. Again if the head man is making money, ethics are often looked over. Kids “as young as 7… worked from 6:00 in the morning until 7:30 at night” and even though there are now new regulations it shows how unethical capitalism can be. Still today there are arguments about “keeping the wage bill down” in order to expose the worker and increase profits. In my mind it is amazing how people can still consider the ethics of the situation where people are working for under a reasonable living wage and disregarding it. While capitalism obviously does have its benefits like the creation of leisure, there obviously are relationships to 1600/1700’s capitalism to today’s capitalism like the exploitation of the worker, but the ethics of it has began to increase with the gradual elimination of slavery and child labor.


Blog Post Assignment #1 (Berlin, Slave Societies)

Throughout the past few weeks we have learned about many historical events that have happened and their details. There’s one specific event that the passage, Slave Societies Many Thousands Gone by Ira Berlin goes into detail about, slavery. This is a topic that I have been learning about since middle school, I thought I was pretty well-informed about slavery until I read this passage. I thought of slavery as it’s simple definition, the system of owning slaves, having restricted freedom, hard labor, but it’s a way bigger concept than that. This passage not only goes into the details of slavery, but also introduced me to new issues that happened during this time.  From how it started, to the names of the slaves, how slavery became into a system, the labor slaves were put through, the treatment they dealt with, all contributes to the way I now think about slavery, meaning this passage as significantly added to my knowledge about slavery.

There is a significant difference between race, which we see in the text : black African Americans didn’t have the same opportunities as white people did, ” they worked harder and died earlier. Their families were truncated, and few men and women claimed ties of blood and marriage… They  had small opportunities to participate independently in exchange economies and they rarely accumulated property,” (Berlin, 95). Another valuable piece that is mentioned in the text is about the slave trade, and slave ships. Slave ships were extremely harming, dangerous and not at all safe. I was never really taught about the transportation method of slaves so this part of the text I found particularly interesting, “Although conditions improved on slave ships over time, death stalked these vessels, and more than one in ten Africans who landed did not reach the Americas. The survivors arrived in the New World physically depleted and psychologically disoriented,” (Berlin, 104). Berlin’s emphasis on all the details of slavery made it really clear to me how this country is really based off of capitalism. The main goal is to make a profit and it didn’t matter to put humans in harmful environments and situations to get it. Slavery was made into a a large system for profit, “In each of these venues, planters practiced the art of domination, making laws, meting out justice, and silently asserting – by their fine with slaves,” (Berlin, 97).

Does slavery still exist to the same extent as back then? This can be a very controversial topic but today, there are even more forms of slavery like sex trafficking, forced labor, child sex trafficking, the list goes on.. Slavery is and has been a system back then and now. This reading allowed my knowledge to expand on slavery as well as support my thought that America has been based off of capitalism.


Blog Post #1 – James Fulcher

From the text by James Fulcher, on capitalism, we can see that he mentions three different types of capitalism.  Merchant capitalism, merchants trading goods for a profit.  Capitalist production, manufacturing goods, and using labor force to create goods for profit.  The last type being financial capitalism, creating banks and accumulating money profits in a financial system. James Fulcher ultimately defines capitalism as a process of investing money in order to make some sort of monetary profit.  He mentions that capital is investing money to make more money.  James Fulcher’s views on capitalism opened my mind to the many different pieces that go into capitalism.  I always defined capitalism as private ownership like a monopoly that made a profit.  What came to my mind was Andrew Carnegie’s Steel Company or Rockefeller’s Standard Oil business.  But what I didn’t realize and even comprehended was the early capitalism methods. 

Thinking about capitalism and creating profits, I tied this back to slavery.  I realize that capitalism helped feud the use of slaves in order to make more profit.  I feel that slaves were part of merchant capitalism.  During the Columbian Exchange, we see trading between Africa, Europe, and the Americas. One of the things being traded was Africans that were then used as slaves. This is like the cycle of what James Fulcher defines as capital.  Money is being invested into buying Africans for slavery, which is then creating more profit with the workforce maintaining plantations in order to trade tobacco, cotton, and other cash crops.  I do have a question about one of James Fulcher’s statements where he mentions that “capitalists existed before capitalism”.  He goes on to give an example of how merchants made money investing in goods which they would later sell for profit.  Is this action not the same principles of capitalism? How can there be capitalists without capitalism following?

James Fulcher-Capitalism

In the past several decades, capitalism has played an important role in our society. In the article, “What is capitalism” author James Fulcher in this article, he explained how capitalism affects different countries. The author believes that almost all economic activities in capitalist society are “investment” and “profit”. Capitalism is about investing for profit. He examined the different forms of capitalism in the United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, and the United States, and discussed whether capital has broken away from the boundaries of the state and is moving toward optimization. He also cited the tulip frenzy in the Netherlands in the 17th century, the recent financial crisis in Southeast Asia, Enron corporation in the United States, and World Communications as examples, and thus discussed the future of capitalism.

The reading adds to my knowledge of the subject of what I previously thought about this aspect of American or global history was that I found out how capitalism plays a significant way in American. For example, in the article, Fulcher states, “Capital is money that is invested in order to make more money.” And “Capitalists existed before capitalism proper. Since the earliest times merchants have made money by investing in goods that they sold at a profit.” (Fulcher pg. 14) this part shows me how capitalism was during the past, the merchants made money by the profit of the item they sell to others. In addition, what I knowns about that Capitalism production depends on the exploitation of wage labor, and works have become what Marx called “wage slaves”.

The historic transformation, or change over time, that the author is describing in the reading was capitalism has gone through three stages: early commercial capitalism, modern industrial capitalism, and now financial capitalism. According to the historian, this change of capitalism happens and takes place gradually because in the earlier time period the British East India company conducts long-distance trade through the investment of the rich, for example in the exchange for spice gold, pepper, cloves, and nutmegs. If the ship successfully returns to England, the merchant can make far more profit than the investment. If it sinks on a rock or encounters a pirate, then the merchant will lose all their money. This was the early commercial capitalism that Fulcher mention in the article. Within the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, large machines need to be manipulated by workers, so the use of workers appeared. Industrial capitalism required regular and continuous work, “Expensive machinery had to be kept constantly in use. Idleness and drunkenness, even wandering around and conversation, could not be allowed.” (Fulcher pg.7) Then the following comes with the financial capitalism which basely talks about how high-value goods works, for example in the article Fulcher states, “If the price of the corn is high but the harvest is some way off, a farmer can lock into the existing price by making a deal with a merchant to sell the corn at this price in three months’ time.” (Fulcher pg.10) This shows the way of how farmer wants to keep the high price before the price decrease, so they will decide to make deals with the merchant to keep the high price.

Fulcher’s article gives a lot of ideas of how capitalism work and how it changes throughout time.

Blog Post Assignment #1

  • What was the historic transformation, or change over time, that the author is describing in the reading?…


It is often presumed that the progression of our current state of economy, -Free market Capitalism-, has been  stagnant throughout modern history, with the trading  systems of the Old World being the foundation of Capitalism itself.  The concept of Capitalism has always been prevalent in much of the world’s past economies and societies, with profit being a main source of motivation for the seemingly unwavering ambitions of the nations of the Old World, however, it must be noted that Capitalism, -as done so in James Fulcher’s’ “Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction”-, and all that it entails has been shaped over time to become what it is now;”…the investment of money in the expectation of making a profit [or capital]” (Fulcher 2), as it has had differing phases and/or forms that has been accommodated to the time and place in which it was being practiced in. Fulcher throughout the text, implies this.


The earliest form of Capitalism, Merchant Capitalism, -as indicated by Fulcher- was the accumulation of profits through trading systems. It occurred within the 17th century in Europe. With it, travel and the means to travel were necessary for this kind of Capitalism to take place. And thus, expeditions involving the movement of large cargo ships and crews led by nationally representative trading companies that were “controlled and administered” by rich merchants were launched to help exchange and transport goods between various European, Asian and African countries. These expeditions despite being successful and efficient in their tasks, were not exempt from risk. An example of this is the expeditions led by the East India Company of England in 1601-1608, where,-after a few successes were accomplished in acquiring spices from the East Indies for trade-, some of the ships that were sent on these ventures such as, Susan, Hector and Ascension  were either found ” …lost at sea…with most of [their] crew found dead [or]…wrecked… [which ultimately led to] the investors [people who funded the expeditions] in this expedition [to lose] all their capital.”(Fulcher 1). Merchant Capitalism given all the risks that occurred under it, continued to serve as the economic system many of the Old World followed until the establishment and integration of the New World and the various kinds of products it had to offer into the international economy, which in a century or so later, following the 17th, brought about Industrialization and Capitalist Production.


Capitalist Production has been donned as more significant to the overall establishment of our modern day Capitalism than other forms of Capitalism themselves because Capitalist Production, as Fulcher implies, “…depends on the exploitation of wage labour, which also fuels the consumption of the goods and services produced by capitalist enterprises.”(Fulcher 18). Capitalist Production which sought out labor as a form of product in contrast to the more traditional kinds of product to the greater scale of the economy, is what eventually led to Financial Capitalism.


Financial Capitalism, -the obtaining of money profits through financial operations or systems-, when involving risk, unlike it’s predecessor, Merchant Capitalism and  although still possible and impactful, risk, weighs differently and less so.This is possible through, as Fulcher describes as “Speculation,…[which] occurs when something is bought in the expectation of selling it, without increasing its value by processing it in some way, at a higher price in the future…it is…a way of avoiding risk.” (Fulcher 17).  Financial Capitalism, given that it was created in the late 19th century, in all its more modern methods and techniques like the stock market and banking, is more reflective of and influential towards our current form of Free Market Capitalism.


Fulcher makes note that Capitalism through all of its phases and gradual changes was and still is transformative as markets, products and the means to invest money into them for profit will always be changing.

Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom

The passage talks about why Virginia and many other colonies moved toward having slaves. Morgan explains how people would be transported to Virginia to work and be under a contract. Those who were under a contract were called a servitude. Servitude was the closest thing to what slavery was before slavery actually became a thing in Virginia.
A enduring issue during the time was that servitude would lead to slavery. People were given longer sentences for a mistake they had made. In the early 17th century the first African slaves were in Virginia. At first the slaves would die because their immune system was not used to the disease in the New World that people from Europe brought. Many did not see the point in buying them to do labor if they were going to die. Slaves were not a good investment for those who want workers. Tobacco fields needed a lot of labor and workers willing to work in harsh conditions. Many Virginians owned land that had tobacco fields. English servants were not efficient too. So Virginians would look toward slaves but slaves cost more then servants. Tobacco and sugar became a demand from England so those who had land needed to find a way to buy slaves. Some ways that they did this was “When they wanted to buy slaves in Barbados, they could send cattle and hogs in exchange.”(303) Slaves were treated like objects. Their conditions and treatment would only get worse. Slaves would work hard and have no break from the harsh labor. Women were not known to work but slave women were an exception. When slave women were pregnant the children they had would be enslaved since birth. They would become the property of the master and would only help the growth of enslaved people in Virginia. Laws were made more toward servants who tried to run away. Slaves never had freedom unlike servants that have to work till their contract is over and they would become free. In order to keep the slaves from running they would be punished. Masters want the slaves to fear them in order to have control over the slaves because unlike the servants they had a sort of freedom. Virginians only saw slaves as a profit because slaves would work hard for nothing in return. Virginians made profit off those who were working hard and treated poorly.

Blog Assignment #1: James Fulcher Capitalism

     During American History, we see that people get their success from domination in society. Domination can occur in many ways and by using many methods, but only to meet one goal. That is to make money(or a profit). People who are in the lower class generally identify as poor people. But, in order to show dominance, they classified themselves as the free market. James Fulcher expressed the dominance that evolved from capitalism in the 17th century, taking advantage of the nation. Capitalism is investing in money to eventually make more profit, sometimes in risky ways. For example, in the 17th century, these merchants invested in some type of money or product and traveled long distances by ship to sell them in the market for more money. Some of these expeditions were successful and others were not as successful or were total failures. For example, the English East India Company had many voyages to sell their profit. On a couple of these voyages, the shareholders made a profit of 95% on their investment. However, on another voyage, the ship ran aground due to the “proud and headstrong master”(Page 1) ignoring local warnings about shoaling waters. The crew was ambushed(or surprised) and the captain was killed. The investors’ entire capital was lost. So at times, capitalism is beneficial for making a profit but is risky when traveling long distances overseas. 

     The reading adds to my knowledge about the history of capitalism in the sense that capitalism is beneficial to those who successfully make a profit by receiving their investment. But, if you didn’t invest money or if your investment money got lost, it would be really hurtful. Not only you would be hurt, but the economy will also be hurt. According to page 6, between 1810 and 1830, there were organized strikes, which were eventually shut down by the employers, and the strikers were arrested with the help of the state. The strikers were the craft and labor workers who were upset by the wage rate being so down. The wages for these workers went to the employers who were the shareholders of capitals. This is a huge problem since the nation develops from the work that laborers do. Based on the evidence, capitalism is really unfair and hurtful to those who don’t have any investments to start from and can’t build up any profit. 

     This is where capitalism peaks because of its strange, but successful methodology. When one person has even a little share of an investment, it can grow into more money for individuals, but little to nothing for the economy. In summary, Fulcher expressed that capitalism is the investment of money to create a profit or more money.