Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

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?

Berlin_Slave societies_Many thousands gone

In this text, the author talks about slavery and what it used to be like. He explains how it used to be and how it was cruel and unusual. For example, slaves used to speak the language of their enslaver, they worked harder than normal people and they died earlier. Their opportunity to participate independently in exchange economies was so small, they rarely accumulated property. He mentioned that they were called by nicknames as an animal name or any other bad word. They were also treated like beasts or animals; people were using “work like a slave” with a harsh meaning. Few of them could escape slavery and some of them commited suicide.                                           Planters used to hate slaves, from their perspectives slaves were labor and nothing more they worked hard at play, for they needed to distinguish themselves from those who simply worked hard. The enslavers were so hypocrite, ruthless and tough with the slaves, as the author mentioned in page 98 in the first paragraph “ while the slaves masters took to their sitting rooms, book-lined libraries, and private clubs to affirm their gentility, the drove their slaves relentlessly, often to the limits of exertion.”  

The author also stated that the violence wasn’t only common in slave society,but  it was also systematic and relentless; the planters’ hegemony required that slaves stand in awe of their owners. Slaves in plantation societies were the extension of their owners’ state in ways they never were in societies with slaves. They treated them in an inhuman way, they used to only give orders and slaves had to obey as the kids obey their parents. Slavery in North America was color-coded, what causes plantation regime imposed racial notions. The competition between the slave and their enslavers was a competition with no ending. 

They were trading slaves as they’re not humans, they were competing to enslave more, the more slaves they owned, the more prestige they got. Slavery was everywhere even slaves can be found in distant places from where they came from.

Then slaves’ identity started to change over time,Africans started to join together and began to form a new culture out of the old world and the new one but the cultures they were creating weren’t unified because the mainland wasn’t unified.

That shows how the world is always so harsh starting from the old world till our day today. The author showed many details on how slaves used to suffer and how they were taken away from their homes,family and their whole life just to carry out orders from their enslavers.

Blog Post Assignment #1

In the reading, Many Thousands Gone, Ira Berlin explains many changes over time that occurred in the transition from societies with slaves to slave societies. A dramatic difference between societies with slaves and slave societies was the mark of lineage. In a society with slaves, slaves adopted names that included surnames. Their successors bore names that did not include surnames and could have even gone as far as to be called a name more associated with that of an animal than a person. This worked to destroy the potential of lineage for slaves. This also made it so slaves were bound to the position of juveniles throughout their life cycle. Condemned to a permanent childhood, slaves in a slave society served as extensions of an owners’ estate. They had no right to intimate or personal affairs without the intrusions of planters.

In the beginning, the ethnic origins of a slave mattered little to planters. Slavey transportation included many ethnic origins such as Africans, Native Americans, and Jewish slaves. Eventually, with the destruction of the Native American population, plantation slavery became exclusive to African slavery. This process redefined the meaning of race, with a greater emphasis on the pigment of the skin than ever before. Slave societies employed racial ideologies to rationalize societal order. This transition strengthened the beliefs of white supremacy. Under these distinctions, slaves were not just demoted to the positions of juveniles but were viewed as savages.

The different outlook on slaves’ position is society affected the implementation of violence. In a society with slaves, the use of force and brutality was persistent and common. However, in a slave society, violence was also systematic and merciless. Slave masters employed terror and severe disciplinary action. This attributed to the death of millions. According to Ira Berlin, this change occurred slowly. It was built upon unevenly and repeatedly and Africans were transported from the Old World to the New World.

Capitalism, A Very Short Introduction- Fulcher

In the text Capitalism, A Very Short Introduction by James Fulcher, he defines capitalism as “the investment of money in the expectation of making profits”. He starts off the text by describing one of the early examples of a capitalistic venture, sending people out to sea to gather resources which were uncommon back at the mainland. When I first learned of capitalism I pictured people adjusting prices or using new technologies in order to get customers and stimulate competition. However after reading this text I understand that capitalism can be as simple as buying low and selling high. Fulcher explains how people from Europe who didn’t have access to certain spices and goods found in foreign countries would have to pay a lot to utilize them. With this being the case, people realized they can make a lot of profit if they go abroad and find these goods. They purchase the goods at a very low price or steal them and then go back to their hometown and sell them. In the East India Company’s first expedition to the East Indies, the shareholders of the voyage racked up an impressive 95% profit using this strategy. However, this was only the beginning as everything started to expand to the point where companies are now publicly traded allowing anyone to get a piece of the pie. 

When anyone thinks of America, they think of how it’s capitalism creates economic freedom and allows the country to prosper. Some may even think that the idea was first practiced there. However, it is clear that many other nations were doing this and brought the economic system over to the United States. Additionally, when you look at the current stock market you must ask yourself, how did something so big become so widespread throughout the world? Reading this piece made me understand that the stock market can be dumbed down to something as simple as buying something that you think will increase in price and then selling it. You’re paying for the risk of losing your money to potentially make a profit. Capitalism is a very complex system, however it is so present in the world today that it is seen in our lives everyday. 

James Fulcher’s Capitalism


James Fulcher explains the beginning of capitalism throughout history. Fulcher describes capitalism as the process of investing money in the expectation of making a profit. Fulcher would examines different types of capitalism between the UK, Japan, Sweden, and the United States as most countries have a capitalist government Fulcher wanted to study of different area reacted to it. James Fulcher would call back on the advancements and dominance of capitalism in the 17th century saying it could be taking advantage of the people.

The earliest forms of capitalism came in the form of  “Merchant Capitalism.” Merchant Capitalism was the acquired profits through the trading systems. Merchant Capitalism was at its peak during the 17th century, due to the ability to talk during trading, the advancements of capitalism started to spread throughout the world. As capitalism was fairly new the profit share was extremely one sided. For example, the English East India Company would sell profits or goods on cargo ships while giving the shareholder almost 95% of the profits made during the exchange.  This does not mean capitalism was not without risk; during one of the journey’s one of the ship ignored the warnings of pirated waters, causing them to be overthrown and ending up with the captain being killed and the goods being stolen. The effect of this was the investors entire capital being lost.

Modern capitalism is not far from its origin. As many countries today still use capitalism in their governments today. It has become more balanced due to the monopoly laws in place making not just one person benefiting off of one person work. In the end, capitalism is still about making profits from your investment of money. No matter where you may invest your money into, if profit exists capitalism exists. Capitalism has expanded through the United States has occurs every single day even if you don’t realize it.





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.