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Trouble of the World

Slavery and Empire in the Age of Capital

By Zach Sell

Trouble of the World

Approx. 352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6134-6
    Published: January 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6045-5
    Published: January 2021

Paperback Available January 2021, but pre-order your copy today!

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In the mid-nineteenth century, U.S. slavery was characterized by relentless expansion and unrelenting exportation, not only of commodities but also of ideas. Zach Sell traces U.S. slavery’s significance to colonial land-based dispossessions on a global scale, showing how slavery molded the United States as an empire-state while other imperial powers looked to it as a model for their own colonial projects. The narrative follows British factory owners and southern plantation owners as they worked to incorporate various kinds of laborers into global circuits of production and consumption, bringing enslaved African Americans, colonial subjects, Indigenous people, and factory workers together. Looking to the rough edges of empire, Sell narrates the struggles of overseers hired away from U.S. plantations to introduce rice and cotton production across colonial India, the efforts of investors in plantations to bring formerly enslaved people and U.S. slaveholders to British Honduras, and more. What emerges is a tale of a system too powerful and too profitable to end, even after emancipation; it is the story of how slavery’s influence survived emancipation, infusing empire and capitalism to this day.

About the Author

Zach Sell is visiting assistant professor of history at Drexel University.
For more information about Zach Sell, visit the Author Page.


"The book is terrific. It advances our historical understanding by showing how U.S. slavery was not just one input into the development of global capitalism, but rather a signal paradigm for the formation of capitalism in a number of regions."--Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University

"Sell must be congratulated for this deeply researched and engaging book of such importance to a variety of fields, including the study of global capitalism, racial slavery, empire in Asia, and colonialism."--Kris Manjapra, Tufts University

"This is a superbly researched and engaging book that illuminates the vital links between capitalism, slavery, and empire in a global frame. Rather than treat these world-altering historical phenomena separately, as they frequently are, it shows persuasively how nations and peoples were shaped by the intertwined histories of racial domination, dispossession, enslavement, and capitalism. Sell gives us a very substantial story of the past that powerfully explains our painful global present."--Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent