FHN Keynote Talk: Sharon Ann Murphy, Banking on Slavery: Financing Southern Expansion in the Antebellum United States (June 12, 2023, 11 am EST)

Manuel Bautista-González Discussion

Dear colleagues,

On Monday, June 12, 2023, at 11 am EST, Sharon Ann Murphy (Professor of History at Providence College) will give the keynote talk Banking on Slavery: Financing Southern Expansion in the Antebellum United States, based on her newly published book.

Professor Murphy’s talk is the last session of the Financial History Network’s 2022-2023 webinar series. You can register for the session here. The abstract is below, and attached, you will find an excerpt. Attendees buying the book from Chicago UP can get 40% off in any format using the code MURPHY40 at checkout. 

It’s now widely understood that the fullest expression of nineteenth-century American capitalism was found in the structures of chattel slavery. It’s also understood that almost every other institution and aspect of life then was at least entangled with—and often profited from—slavery’s perpetuation. Yet as Sharon Ann Murphy shows in her powerful and unprecedented book, the centrality of enslaved labor to banking in the antebellum United States is far greater than previously thought. Banking on Slavery sheds light on precisely how the financial relationships between banks and slaveholders worked across the nineteenth-century South. Murphy argues that the rapid spread of slavery in the South during the 1820s and ’30s depended significantly upon southern banks’ willingness to financialize enslaved lives, with the use of enslaved individuals as loan collateral proving central to these financial relationships. She makes clear how southern banks were ready—and, in some cases, even eager—to alter time-honored banking practices to meet the needs of slaveholders.  In the end, many of these banks sacrificed themselves in their efforts to stabilize the slave economy. Murphy also details how banks and slaveholders transformed enslaved lives from physical bodies into abstract capital assets. Her book provides an essential examination of how U.S. financial history is more intimately intertwined with the dehumanizing institution of slavery than scholars have previously thought.

Best regards,

Manuel - on behalf of FHN convenors

Ph.D. in U.S. History, Columbia University in the City of New York
Postdoctoral Researcher in Global Correspondent Banking, 1870-2000 - Mexico and South America, Faculty of History / Oxford Centre for Economic and Social History, University of Oxford