Accounting for Slavery is a tour de force explanation of why labor historians need to understand management strategies. It is part of the new history of capitalism by scholars such as Edward E. Baptist, Sven Beckert, Daina Ramey Berry, Jonathan Levy, and Seth Rockman, among a distinguished field of scholars. Its leading contention is that “slavery encouraged the development of sophisticated management practices,” with the result that “the soft power of quantification supplemented the driving force of the whip” (2). The book’s strikingly original thesis, that managerial control and accounting were ways of efficiently organizing violent means of production, is also commonsensical, making a convincing case that earlier arguments over slavery’s efficiency were barking up the wrong tree. Accounting was more than a soft power. It was a way of organizing a slave-labor enterprise to ensure control and answerability up the chain from workers to managers to owners in transparent...

You do not currently have access to this content.