Capitalism in American History

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 examines the trajectory of capitalism from its emergence in British North America to the erosion of US global competitiveness in the 1970s and the rise of neoliberalism and financialization since the 1980s. Students will also learn about the role of slavery, the state, and corporations in nineteenth-century capitalist expansion; 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; and the predominance of consumerism in postwar America. 

Read the course outline here and listen to a history teacher introduce the course below.


Please create a free K–12 student account. Note: Only K–12 logged-in students will be able to access the registration form.


  • Twenty-five video sessions led by Professor David Sicilia
  • A certificate of completion for 12 hours of course time

Readings: Recommended readings related to the course are listed in the Resources link on the course page. You are not required to read or purchase any print materials. Quizzes are based on the content of the recordings rather than the readings.

Course Access: After registering, you may access your course by logging in and visiting your “My Courses” link.


David Sicilia is an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland and the Henry Kaufman Chair of Financial History at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. His research expertise includes economic, technological, and exchange history. Sicilia has published several books on these topics, ranging from in-depth investigations of specific entrepreneurs or businesses to explorations of wider global trends. Some of his works include The Entrepreneurs: An American Adventure, co-authored with Robert Sobel; Labors of a Modern Hercules: The Evolution of a Chemical Company, co-authored with Davis Dyer; and Constructing Corporate America: History, Politics, Culture, co-edited with Kenneth Lipartito.

The views expressed in this course are those of Dr. David Sicilia.