The history of capitalism first appeared as a framework for teaching. Much of the field’s strength and vitality thus far has been drawn from the enthusiastic reception it received from undergraduate and graduate students. The demand for courses that use historical methods to engage issues of political economy in innovative ways has often been overwhelming. Lectures, seminars, and tutorials on the topic are currently offered at a wide range of schools, including Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Brown, the University of Chicago, the New School for Social Research, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, and Vanderbilt. Indeed, the success of the history of capitalism as a field will be determined in classrooms and lecture halls, not merely in the archives and on the pages of scholarly journals. As students on campuses around the world increasingly interrogate the foundations of the current economic system, our success will depend on what we can offer to complement, enhance, and challenge the ways students think about the world around them.
In November 2011, the conference on Teaching the History of Capitalism gathered a small group of scholars in the field at Harvard University to reflect on their own teaching, learn from the wisdom and experience of our colleagues, and develop a clearer sense of the field’s pedagogical aims. The conversation focused on how the history of capitalism might enhance college curriculums. Several scholars who could not attend in person also sent their syllabi and suggestions.
Sample Syllabi in the History of Capitalism
- Sean Adams, Florida University: History of American Capitalism
- Sven Beckert, Harvard: History of American Capitalism
- Sven Beckert and Christine Desan, Harvard: The Political Economy of Modern Capitalism
- Elizabeth Blackmar, Columbia: The Rise of American Capitalism
- Joanna Cohen, Queen Mary University of London: Creation of American Capitalism
- Alison Frank, Harvard: Commodities in International History
- Tami J. Friedman, Brock University: Wealth, Work and Power in the United States
- Mark Hendrickson, University of California San Diego: US Economic History (Part 1, Part 2)
- Peter Knight, University of Manchester: Corporate Fictions
- Jonathan Levy, Princeton: The History of American Capitalism
- Stephen Mihm, University of Georgia: The History of Money in America
- Julia Ott, The New School: Wall Street in Crisis: A Geneology
- Seth Rockman, Brown: Capitalism, 1500-Present
- Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Claremont McKenna College: American Capitalism and Society: From Railroads to Starbucks
- Benjamin Waterhouse, University of North Carolina: The History of American Business
- David Zimmerman, English, University of Wisconsin: American Capitalism and Its Discontents (Additional Literature)
This is an ongoing project; if you have taught a course dealing with the history of capitalism and are willing to share it, please send us your syllabus .