Tutorial in the History of Capitalism in the United States


This is graduate-level introduction to the history and historiography of capitalism in America. It is intended as preparation for general examinations in American economic history, history of capitalism, or related fields. We will investigate the development of business, markets, consumption, labor, and welfare from the 18th century to the present. We will pay special attention to how historians have framed the central debates in American economic life. In doing so, we will consider how the “new history of capitalism” differs from earlier historiographical inquiries into business, labor, and economic life.

Core Readings (additional texts will be assigned depending on student interest):


  • Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Knopf, 2014).
  • Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Knopf, 2003).
  • Jefferson Cowie, Capital Moves: RCA’s SeventyYear Quest for Cheap Labor (1999; New York: New Press, 2001).
  • William Cronon Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (Norton, 1991)
  • Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge: Harvard University Press/Belknap Press, 1977).
  • S. Max Edelson, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).
  • Caroline Frank, Objectifying China, Imagining America: Chinese Commodities in Early America (Chicago: Chicago UP, 2012).
  • Louis Hyman: Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).
  • Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).
  • Jonathan Levy, Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012).
  • David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925 (NewYork: Cambridge University Press 1988).
  • Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and WalMart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).
  • Julia Ott, When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011).
  • Kim Phillips‐Fein, Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade against the New Deal (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2009).
  • William G. Roy, Socializing Capital: The Rise of the Large Industrial Corporation in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).
  • Emily S. Rosenberg, Financial Missionaries to the World: The Politics and Culture of Dollar Diplomacy, 19001930 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).
  • Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011).
  • Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts