History of American Capitalism

History 100AC

Spring 2016
Day & Time: 
TuTh 200-330
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • What is capitalism? And when did it come to characterize the American economy? This course will explore the economic history of the United States, from the colonial period to the present. We will analyze the dramatic changes that catapulted a chain of colonies from the fringe of the global economy to its center. As the semester progresses, we will seek out the sources of this dramatic transformation, exploring a variety of overlapping and sometimes conflicting explanations for the coming of capitalism. Is this primarily a story about ideas and economic outlook? Is it about entrepreneurship and innovation? Or about exploitation and expropriation? What role did the government play? What role the individual?
    Major themes will include the rise of the factory system, slavery and emancipation, technological innovation, the development of banking and finance, and economic inequality. Rarely was the “invisible hand” colorblind or gender neutral. We will examine capitalism both from above and from below, seeking to understand the causes and consequences of economic change for different groups of Americans. We will debate the role of famous businessmen and inventors, but we will also look at the ways largely forgotten workmen, mothers, and even slaves shaped the course of American economic development.

    Course Books

    The Box by Marc Levinson Princeton University Press. ISBN: 978-0691136400 Required
    Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by Bill Cronon W W Norton. ISBN: 978-0393308730 Required
    Sam Patch the Famous Jumper by Paul Johnson Hill & Wang. ISBN: 978-0809083886 Required
    Making a New Deal by Lizabeth Cohen Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-0521715355 Required
    Capital Moves by Jefferson Cowie The New Press. ISBN: 978-1565846593 Required