Capitalism in American History, Led by David B. Sicilia, University of Maryland

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By 1900, the United States was the world’s leading economy. Through a clear definition of capitalism and a set of core questions, this course explores how capitalism emerged in British North America; economic dimensions of the American Revolution and Constitution; the role of slavery, the state, and corporations in nineteenth-century capitalist expansion; America’s unique pathways to industrialization; the rise of big business and its impact on US politics, society, and industrial work; the Second Industrial Revolution; causes of the Great Depression; how the New Deal and World War II created a mixed economy; the predominance of consumerism in postwar America; the erosion of US global competitiveness in the 1970s; the rise of neoliberalism and financialization since the 1980s; and the impact of economic theory on economic policymaking.


• Twelve lectures and walking tours of Lower Manhattan
• Primary source readings to complement the lectures
• A certificate of completion for 15 hours of professional development credit

Readings: The suggested readings for each seminar session will be listed on the “Resources” link on the course site. Please note that you are not required to read or purchase any print materials. The quizzes are based on the lectures.

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David B. Sicilia

David B. Sicilia is an associate professor in the Department of History and Henry Kaufman Chair of Financial History at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. His research and teaching center on business, economic, and technology history, with a special emphasis on the history of capitalism and finance. His books include Constructing Corporate America: History, Politics, Culture (2004) and Strands of Modernization: The Circulation of Technology and Business Practices in East Asia, 1850–1920 (2021).