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06.01.11 : Fogel, Robert William and Stanley L. Engerman, Time On The Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, Republished by Norton & Co, 1995.


Important lessons about Southern slavery prior to the War Between the States which we can learn from the 1974 book Time on the Cross by pioneering economic historians Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman.

Ten major findings of Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman are presented below.  Their findings resulted from their pioneering “utilization of rapid advances in economics, statistics, and applied mathematics, together with the availability of high-speed computers, which put information long locked in obscure archives at the disposal of a new generation of scholars.”

“1.  The purchase of a slave was generally a highly profitable investment which yielded rates of return that compared favorably with the most outstanding investment opportunities in manufacturing.

“2.  As the Civil War approached, slavery as an economic system was never stronger and the trend was toward even further entrenchment.

“3.  The rise of the secessionist movement coincided with a wave of optimism.  On the eve of the Civil War, slaveholders anticipated an era of unprecedented prosperity.

“4.  Economies of large-scale operation, effective management, and intensive utilization of labor and capital made southern agriculture 35 percent more efficient than the northern system of family farming.

“5.  On average, the typical slave field hand was harder-working and more efficient than his white counterpart.

“6.  Slaves employed in industry compared favorably with free workers in diligence and efficiency.  Far from declining, the demand for slaves was actually increasing more rapidly in urban areas than in the countryside.

“7.  The family was the basic unit of organization under slavery.  It was to the economic interest of planters to encourage the stability of slave families and most of them did so.  Most slave sales were either of whole families or of individuals who were at an age when it would have been normal for them to have left the family.

“8.  The material (not psychological) conditions of the lives of slaves compared favorably with those of free industrial workers.

“9.  Over the course of his lifetime, the typical slave field hand received about 90 percent of the income he produced.

“10.  Between 1840 and 1860, per capita income increased more rapidly in the South than in the rest of the nation.  By 1860, the South attained a level of per capita income which was high by the standards of the time, Indeed, a country as advanced as Italy did not receive the same level of per capita income until the eve of World War II.” 

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