Trouble of the World

Slavery and Empire in the Age of Capital

By Zach Sell

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
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6046-2
    Published: November 2020

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In this innovative new study, Zach Sell returns to the explosive era of capitalist crisis, upheaval, and warfare between emancipation in the British Empire and Black emancipation in the United States. In this age of global capital, U.S. slavery exploded to a vastness hitherto unseen, propelled forward by the outrush of slavery-produced commodities to Britain, continental Europe, and beyond. As slavery-produced commodities poured out of the United States, U.S. slaveholders transformed their profits into slavery expansion. Ranging from colonial India to Australia and Belize, Sell’s examination further reveals how U.S. slavery provided not only the raw material for Britain’s explosive manufacturing growth but also inspired new hallucinatory imperial visions of colonial domination that took root on a global scale. 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.


"With obvious import for our understanding of the historical bases of present crises in the U.S. and around the world today, Trouble of the World offers tremendous insight, detail and argument to the reader. The research is meticulous and the detailed findings from small case studies are all purposefully woven into an argument about how the demands of emergent global capitalism in the mid-nineteenth century were generative in reworking racial domination and colonial occupation."--Ethnic and Racial Studies

"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

“Zach Sell's Trouble of the World reminds us that the historical analysis of capitalism and slavery cannot be separated from that of imperialism. In the process, he provides a novel and indispensable account of the history of slavery in the nineteenth-century North Atlantic. This is a terrific book.”--Walter Johnson, author of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States