John Martin Handel

Graduate Student

Late Modern Europe

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 long 19th century. 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. One section of the dissertation tracks how financial representation was organized by tracking the development of finance's forms, like coordination and communication between a global network of stock exchanges, how bank agents assessed sovereign debt markets and property in far flung places, and how all of this information was authorized within the broader discursive field of understanding. 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 logics. Most prominently, this has led to research on the direct British investment in American and Brazilian slavery and monetization projects in colonial India.

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, conservative religious groups especially, 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.

During these times of assault on higher education, I've also become interested in issues surrounding university governance and administration. In that capacity, I'm serving as one of the History Department's delegates to the Berkeley Graduate Assembly for the 2017-2018 year.

Research Interests

  • Modern Britain and Its Empire
  • History of Finance/Capitalism
  • Secularization
  • Colonialism
  • History and Theory
  • Digital Humanities