Examine how economic development fueled the United States’ evolution from 13 backwater colonies to a global power.
Perhaps no story is as essential to get right as the history of capitalism. Nearly all of our theories about promoting progress come from how we interpret the economic changes of the last 500 years. This past decade’s crises continue to remind us just how much capitalism changes, even as its basic features—wage labor, financial markets, private property, entrepreneurs—endure. While capitalism has a global history, the United States plays a special role in that story. This course will help you to understand how the United States became the world’s leading economic power, revealing essential lessons about what has been and what will be possible in capitalism’s on-going revolution.
Edward E. Baptist
Edward Baptist is an associate professor in the Department of History at Cornell University. His scholarship is centered on the 19th-century United States and, more broadly, the creation of the modern world. One specific research focus is the massive growth of slavery in the United States between the American Revolution and the Civil War, an expansion that shaped the emergence of both American and global capitalism. He teaches a wide variety of courses on U.S. political history, the history of slavery, and, of course, the history of American capitalism.
Baptist studied at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997.
Louis Hyman is an assistant professor in the Department of Labor Relations, Law, and History at Cornell University. His research interests focus on the history of capitalism in the United States. His first book, Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink, focuses on the history of the political economy of debt; the book was selected as one of the 2011 Choice Top 25 Outstanding Books of the Year. His second book, Borrow: The American Way of Debt, explains how American culture shaped finance and, in turn, how finance shaped culture.
A former Fulbright scholar, Hyman earned a BA in history and mathematics at Columbia University, and received his PhD in American history in 2007 from Harvard University.
Introduction: Considering Capitalism Historically
Capitalism Comes to America: 1492–1787
Making Capitalism American: 1787–1877
Making American Capitalism Corporate: 1877–1945
Making American Capitalism Global: 1945–2008
Conclusion: Assessing Capitalism Historically
There is no formal prerequisite. This course is designed to be accessible for people without a strong background in U.S. history. Nevertheless, we make reference to many people, locations, events, or developments that may be unfamiliar to some students. Below are sources for additional information.
Wikipedia is a very helpful source for a quick definition or description of most of the material in this course. It can help you answer most factual questions you might have.
Digital History is a website that can serve as an online text book if you need a stronger grounding in U.S. history.
For more difficult questions, you can post a question on the discussion board where your fellow students may be able to help you.
An e-book has been designed for this class, containing all the readings and some additional essays by leading scholars in the history of capitalism, including the professors. American Capitalism: A Reader [Kindle Edition] Amazon.com.