History of American Capitalisms

Spring 2024

Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9:45 - 11:00 a.m.
Ballantine Hall 243

Prof. Konstantin Dierks

Course Description Course Resources

What were the roots of capitalism in American history?  The nineteenth century was a century of growth and panics, factories and slave plantations, westward expansion and global trade, unstable money and wildcat banks, railroads and telegraphs, the harnessing of steam and the discovery of oil, business law and consumer advertising, engineering innovation and environmental damage.  Was capitalism savior, or curse?  We will investigate diverse social experiences of capitalism in the United States as it evolved across a century of remarkable commercialization, industrialization, urbanization, and globalization.

Because many new forms of visual culture were developed in the nineteenth century, this course will center upon visual as well as textual sources.  At the end of the course I hope you will have a solid grounding in American history, and a keen appreciation of the complexity of the past as well as the contingencies of historical change.  I also hope you will have sharper analytical skills with which to assess evidence and formulate your own arguments, as well as sharper writing and verbal skills with which to organize and articulate your own ideas — beyond the confines of history, and useful in any field of endeavor.

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