Histories of Capitalism

Recently "capitalism" has emerged as a major category for analysis and debate. This seminar will explore some of this new research and how it can challenge the way we teach major topics in global and US history. The seminar will explore how the history of capitalism can helpfully frame three major historical junctures. First, a global perspective on the industrial revolution that allows us to ask why Britain and then Europe developed and became wealthy compared to other advanced regions in the "Great Divergence." Second, an Atlantic perspective on slavery and capitalism allows us to explore how two systems of labor (free waged labor, coerced enslaved labor) became so closely interconnected yet distinct parts of the the nineteenth century economy. Finally, turning to the history of the United States, we will examine the relationship of governmental power and capitalism. According to many theorists, capitalism is defined by government restraint and limits. Yet when we look at the actual history of capitalism, a pattern of extensive and expanding state capacity appears to be one of the defining features of capitalist economies.