Robin Blackburn traces European doctrines of race and slavery from medieval times to the early modern epoch. "The Making of New World Slavery" argues that independent commerce, geared to burgeoning consumer markets, was the driving force behind the rise of plantation slavery. The baroque state sought - successfully - to feed upon this commerce and - unsuccessfully - to regulate slavery and racial relations. To illustrate this history, Blackburn examines the deployment of slaves in the colonial possessions of the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, the English and the French. Plantation slavery is shown to have emerged from the impulses of civil society, not from the strategies of the individual states. Robin Blackburn argues that the organization of slave plantations placed the West on a destructive path to modernity and that greatly preferable alternatives were both proposed and rejected. Finally he shows that the surge of Atlantic trade, predicated on the murderous toil of the plantations, made a decisive contribution to both the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the West.
Robin Blackburn teaches at the Graduate Faculty of the New School University, New York, and in the Sociology Department of the University of Essex. He is the author of The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 and, most recently, Age Shock.