Promises, Promises: A History of Debt

The Birth of Capitalism

Series 1 - Episode 8 The Birth of Capitalism

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Summary

Anthropologist David Graeber examines the influence of debt during the birth of capitalism. The conventional view is that the innovations during the early days of capitalism led to greater material prosperity, enabling people to live happier lives. However, David argues those times were in fact marked by extraordinary levels of war and violence. He also explores the centrality of debt to the slave trade, investigating how, in the late 17th century, ship owners based in England would acquire goods such as copper wires and brass rods on easy credit terms from local wholesalers, expecting to make money by selling slaves to plantation owners in the Antilles and North America. From 2015.

Cast & Crew

Presenter David Graeber
Producer Max O'Brien
Documentary