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. Methodolotically, 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, will be published by Harvard University Press in 2018. The book explores the development of business practices on slave plantations and uses this history to understand the relationship between violence and innovation.
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. In 2018, I will offer a new course called "Calculating Americans: Big Histories of Small Data." The class explores the long and messy history of quantification in the US, considering everything from the U.S. Census to social surveys, insurance policies, medical records, and sports. I also advise graduate students on a variety of topics related to data and economy.
PhD, Harvard University, History of American Civilization
AM, Harvard University, History
BA, Rice University, Political Science, summa cum laude
Selected Fellowships & Awards
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.
"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
“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)