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American Capitalism

A Reader

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From Cornell University Professors Louis Hyman and Edward E. Baptist, a collection of the most relevant readings on the history of capitalism in America, created to accompany their EdX course American Capitalism: A Reader.

To understand the past and especially our own times, arguably no story is as essential to get right as the history of capitalism. Nearly all of our theories about promoting progress come from how we interpret the economic changes of the last 500 years. This past decade’s crises continue to remind us just how much capitalism changes, even as basic features like wage labor, financial markets, private property, and entrepreneurs endure. While capitalism has a global history, the United States plays a special role in that story.

American Capitalism: A Reader will help you to understand how the United States became the world’s leading economic power, while revealing essential lessons about what has been and what will be possible in capitalism’s ongoing revolution. Combining a wealth of essential readings, introductions by Professors Baptist and Hyman, and questions to help guide readers through the materials and broader subject, this course reader will prepare students to think critically about the history of capitalism in America.

Edward E. Baptist is an associate professor in the Department of History at Cornell University. His scholarship is centered on the 19th-century United States and, more broadly, the creation of the modern world. One specific research focus is the massive growth of slavery in the United States between the American Revolution and the Civil War, an expansion that shaped the emergence of both American and global capitalism. He teaches a wide variety of courses on U.S. political history, the history of slavery, and, of course, the history of American capitalism. Baptist studied at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and received his PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997.

Louis Hyman is an assistant professor in the Department of Labor Relations, Law, and History at Cornell University. His research interests focus on the history of capitalism in the United States. His first book, Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink, focuses on the history of the political economy of debt; the book was selected as one of the 2011 Choice Top 25 Outstanding Books of the Year. His second book, Borrow: The American Way of Debt, also named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, explains how American culture shaped finance and, in turn, how finance shaped culture. A former Fulbright scholar, Hyman earned a BA in history and mathematics at Columbia University and received his PhD in American history in 2007 from Harvard University.