I am a historian of 18th and 19th century U.S. history. My research focuses on the development of management practices, especially those based on data analysis. Methodologically, I seek to blend qualitative and quantitative methods and to combine insights from business history, economic history, and labor history.
My first book, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management (Harvard University Press, 2018) won the Simpkins Award of the Southern Historical Association as well as the first book prize of the Economic History Society. It was also featured as a "Five Books" best book in economics for 2018 and honored by the San Francisco Public Library Laureates. The book explores the development of business practices on slave plantations and uses this history to understand the relationship between violence and innovation, themes that led to the book's inclusion in the New York Time's 1619 Project.
Before coming to Berkeley, I was the Newcomen Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Business School, and before that I worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Company. My work is motivated by the hope that more complete histories of management can help us to explore deep political and ethical questions, many of which continue to face modern businesspeople.
My undergraduate teaching focuses on the history of capitalism and of data practices. In 2016, my course on "The History of American Capitalism," which blends methods from economic, business, and labor history, was awarded the American Cultures Innovation in Teaching Prize. I also offer a course on called "Calculating Americans" on the history of data practices, considering everything from the U.S. Census to social surveys, insurance policies, medical records, and sports.
I advise graduate students on a variety of topics related to data and economy, and I support students seeking career opportunities within and beyond academia. In 2019, I received the Carol D. Soc graduate mentoring award.
PhD, Harvard University, History of American Civilization
AM, Harvard University, History
BA, Rice University, Political Science, summa cum laude
Selected Fellowships & Awards
Carol D. Soc Graduate mentoring award (early career), 2019
Hellman Faculty Fellowship, 2018-2020
American Cultures Innovation in Teaching Prize, 2016
Townsend Center for the Humanities Fellowship, 2016–2017
Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship, 2016–2017 (declined)
Krooss Dissertation Prize in Business History, 2013
Finalist for the Allan Nevins Prize in American Economic History, 2013
Finalist for the SHEAR Dissertation Prize, 2013
Harvard-Newcomen Fellow in Business History, Harvard Business School, 2012–2013
Ira Unschuld Fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library, 2012
Thomas Cochran Fellowship in Business and Economic History, 2010–2011
American Antiquarian Society Botein Residential Research Fellowship in Book History, 2010
PEAES Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia, 2010
Selected Publications & Works in Progress
|Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, Harvard University Press, Forthcoming, Expected August 2018|
Cultural History of Business: The Age of Enlightenment (c.1650-1800), coeditor with Siobhan Talbott, under contract with Bloomsbury Press.
"Capitalism Where Labor Was Capital: Slavery, Power, and Price in Antebellum America" Capitalism, a Journal of History and Economics (2020)
"Balancing the Books: Convergence and Diversity of Accounting in Massachusetts, 1875–1895," Journal of Economic History (2020)
"Abolition as Market Regulation," reply to Walter Johnson in the Boston Review (2017)
"Numbers for the Innumerate: Everyday Arithmetic and Atlantic Capitalism," Technology & Culture (April 2017)
"Seeking a Quantitative Middle Ground: Reflections on Methods and Opportunities in Economic History," Journal of the Early Republic (Winter 2016)
“Slavery’s Scientific Management: Accounting for Mastery.” Slavery's Capitalism. Eds. Seth Rockman, S. Beckert, and D. Waldstreicher. University of Pennsylvania Press
"In the Money: Finance, Freedom, and American Capitalism," American Quarterly (March 2016)
"From Memory to Mastery: Accounting for Control in America, 1750-1880," Enterprise & Society (December 2013)
“Storybook-keepers: Numbers and Narratives in Nineteenth-Century America,” Common-Place (April 2012)
“Fundamental Freedom or Fringe Benefit: Rice University and the Evolution of Academic Tenure, 1935-1963,” Journal of Academic Freedom (2011)
Popular Writing, Interviews & Press Coverage
"The Perils of Big Data: How Crunching Numbers Can Lead to Moral Blunders," Washington Post (Feb 18, 2019)
"How the History of Slavery in America Offers an Important Labor Day Lesson," TIME (August 30, 2018)
“Big Data in the Age of the Telegraph,” McKinsey Quarterly (Q1 2013)
"Plantations Practiced Modern Management," Harvard Business Review (September 2013)
"The Messy Link Between Slave Owners and Modern Management," HBS Working Knowledge (January 2013)
“The long, controversial history of for-profit education,” Bloomberg Echoes (October 2012)