Thursday, December 22, 2022

"Your use / of Bayesian inference // in the history of slavery": Alfred H. Conrad, "The Economics of the Antebellum South", and Adrienne Rich's "Winterface"

In Adrienne Rich's 2008 poem "Winterface", from "Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010", the speaker receives an inquiry: "Someone writes asking about your use / of Bayesian inference // in the history of slavery". It might seem strange to analyze the history of slavery using statistical concepts originally developed by Thomas Bayes in the eighteenth century. But Alfred H. Conrad, who was Rich's husband in the 1950s and 1960s, actually did co-write a ground-breaking 1958 study, "The Economics of Slavery in the Antebellum South", whose statistical analysis demonstrated that, contrary to previous claims, enslavement in the United States was economically stable and would not have disappeared without the Civil War. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 22 December 2022)

No comments: