Sven Beckert

Laird Bell Professor of American History


Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University. Professor Beckert researches and teaches the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political and transnational dimensions. He just completed The Empire of Cotton: A Global History, the first global history of the nineteenth century’s most important commodity. His other publications have focused on the nineteenth-century American bourgeoisie, on labor, on democracy, on global history and on the connections between slavery and capitalism. Currently he is at work on a history of capitalism. Beckert teaches courses on the history of American capitalism, Gilded Age America, the political economy of modern capitalism, labor history, global capitalism and the history of European capitalism. Together with a group of students he has also worked on the historical connections between Harvard and slavery and published Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History.

Beckert is co-chair of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard University , and co-chair of the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History (WIGH). Beyond Harvard, he co-chairs an international study group on global history, is co-editor of a series of books at Princeton University Press on “America in the World,” has co-organized a series of conferences on the history of capitalism, and is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. He also directs the Harvard College Europe Program.

Dissertation Committees

“Race for the Pacific: Samoa in the Age of Empire” (Holger Droessler)

“De-Naturalizing Disasters: The Political Economy of American Catastrophe” (Summer Shafer)

“The Pricing of Progress: Economic Indicators and the Capitalization of American Life” (Eli Cook)

“From Memory to Mastery: Accounting for Control in America, 1750-1880″ (Caitlin Rosenthal)

“Politics of Property: Urban Democracy in the Age of Capital, Boston 1865-1900″ (Noam Maggor)

Selected Publications

  • beckert-cotton

    Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf, 2014), by Sven Beckert

  • moniedBeckert

    The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 (Cambridge University Press, 2006), by Sven Beckert