Published fifty years ago, Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s Time on the Cross is one of the most important works of economic history. It argued that slavery was a highly efficient profitable enterprise, that the South was generally flourishing economically, and that slaves had a standard of living comparing favorably with some northern white industrial workers. Some aspects of the book, especially estimates of low expropriation rates, have not stood up well. Despite this, we need more scholars like Fogel and Engerman to interpret and reinterpret our past in ways that engage the present and future generations.

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Richard K. Vedder is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University, and author of Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America.
Other Independent Review articles by Richard K. Vedder
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Fall 2021 Four Centuries of Black Economic Progress in America: Ideological Posturing versus Empirical Realities
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