Robin Blackburn's The American Crucible is the latest installment of his extended treatment of African slavery in the Atlantic world. Chronologically and thematically it overlaps his two previous works, The Making of New World Slavery: From Baroque to Modern, 1492–1800 (1997) and The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776–1848 (1988). Here, Blackburn intertwines the history of slavery with that of abolition from the fifteenth century through the nineteenth century. He also tracks the legacy of abolitionism into twentieth-century struggles to establish international recognition of fundamental human rights.

Blackburn argues that times of instability in the capitalist world system had negative repercussions for slave regimes. One such period was the age of revolution during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Another occurred later in the nineteenth century, beginning with the United States in the 1850s and 1860s, and then Cuba and Brazil in the 1870s and 1880s. Although regional and international...

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