John Martin Handel

Office Hours: 
Thu 1:30-3:30
Research Interests: 

I'm a cultural and economic historian of Modern Britain and its Empire. My dissertation project, provisionally entitled "Forms of Finance, Specters of Capital" looks at how Britons assembled a body of knowledge that attempted to tame, make legible, and realize, the speculative forms of finance capital that were taking off on a massive scale for the first time during the 19th century. My project stretches the 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period, I focus on how financial institutions like the expanding global network of stock exchanges, central banks, and merchant and investment banks, collected and translated vast amounts of information about the world around them into flat and quantified financial information and instruments. I'm interested in writing a history of finance that resists purely institutional perspectives and technological functionalism. Instead, I concentrate on the social and cultural formations through which financial information became realized as a coherent body of knowledge, on how networks of human and technological actors alike interfaced. My research has led me to focus on the creation of brokers associations, the rules and regulations of the global network of stock exchanges, on how telegraphic and telephonic networks were used to create and communicate financial information, and on the labor which made these networks possible. Likewise, I'm interested in how this process of financial representation fundamentally transformed and shaped the objects they purportedly described. In particular, this line of questioning has led me to examine the "specters" of finance capital, the objects that underwrote new financial instruments but which were, in many ways, excluded from their logic, including British investment in American and Brazilian slavery, the global capital market of sovereign debt, and a broader rethinking about the relationship between finance and imperial violence, especially in how finance capital was mobilized to support companies and firms that had extra-imperial functions.

My second project also concerns problems of knowledge in the 19th century, but in this case, it's religious knowledge. I'm interested in how, especially conservative religious groups like the Oxford Movement, responded to writing for an expanded audience of strangers, through abstracted mediums of print in the 19th century. I am currently revising an article on Victorian print culture, reading practices and John Henry Newman's infamous Tract 90.

GSI course: 
History 1: Global History
Research Interests: 

Modern Britain and Its Empire

History of Finance/Capitalism



History and Theory

Digital Humanities

Graduate Position: 
Graduate Student