*This is a 2 unit course. It does not fulfill a major requirement.
When President Calvin Coolidge declared in 1925 that “the chief business of the American people is business,” he was not making a historical argument, though it would have been a defensible one. Nearly a century earlier, French visitor, Alexis de Tocqueville, made a similar observation. Indeed, America was colonized by joint-stock corporations! Understanding the history of American business can therefore unlock a great deal about America itself. How did the exchange of capital become capitalism? How have markets and firms been constructed politically and socially? Is the history of American business primarily one of creative entrepreneurs or exploitative opportunists? What is the relationship between capitalism, gender, and race? In this course, we will explore these questions on a chronological journey from seventeenth-century joint-stock colonization to twenty-first century high-frequency trading.