History of American Capitalism: Business, Work, Economy

History 100AC

Fall 2013
102 Wurster
Day & Time: 
Tu Th 11-12:30P
  • 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.
    Caitlin Rosenthal studies American economic history. Her current book project, From Slavery to Scientific Management, explores the influence of slave plantations on the development of business practices, particularly accounting and commercial calculation. The project draws on her doctoral dissertation, which won the 2013 Krooss prize for the best dissertation in business history. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley she was the Harvard-Newcomen Fellow at Harvard Business School.

    Course Books

    Capital Moves by Jefferson Cowie The New Press. ISBN: 978-1565846593 Required
    Sam Patch: The Famous Jumber by Johnson, Paul Hill and Wang. ISBN: 978-0809083886 Required
    Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan by Phillips-Fein, Kim W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN: 978-0393059304 Required
    Making a New Deal by Cohen, Lizabeth Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-0521715355 Required
    The Economy of British America, 1607-1789 by McCusker, John J and Russell Menard University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0807843512 Required