Caitlin Rosenthal

Assistant Professor Fellow
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Caitlin Rosenthal (History) is working on a book project on the complex relationship between slavery and capitalism in American history. Most histories of modern management focus on the factories of England and New England, only extending later to the American South. Rosenthal instead begins on West Indian sugar plantations in the late eighteenth century, tracing the development of business practices much like those that would emerge with “scientific management” in the early twentieth century. Drawing on extensive archival research into plantation accounting practices, Rosenthal argues that the harsh realities of slavery were compatible with a highly quantitative, calculating style of management. Planters’ power over their slaves also gave them power as managers. They allocated and reallocated slaves’ labor from task to task, precisely monitored productivity, and depreciated slaves’ “human capital” decades before depreciation became a common accounting technique.