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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just in time - the history of capitalism

Economic history - especially in the broader sense - has largely disappeared from the curriculum in departments of history in the U.S.  So students who want a historical perspective on the recent transformations of the American (or global) economy have limited opportunities at most universities today.  But this may be about to change.  

The history of capitalism was the subject of one of the "state of the field" panels at the Organization of American Historians' annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last weekend.  The panelists included myselfSven Beckert (Harvard University), Julia Ott (The New School), and Seth Rockman (Brown University).  Bethany Moreton (University of Georgia) chaired the panel, which was organized by Margot Canaday (Princeton).  

We drew an enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd and, at least from the people I talked with, rave reviews.  This bodes well for the future of this new field, which seeks to make economic history accessible to historians in a way that it hasn't been for half a century - and just when we need it badly.  So does the news that Bethany's new book on Wal-Mart won the OAH's prestigious Frederick Jackson Turner Award and that Seth's Scraping By garnered an honorable mention in the competition for the Merle Curti Award.  Departments of history (and their philanthropists), take note!

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