Tutor: David Huyssen

Module type: Comparative Histories

Module Code: HIS00085H

Capitalism can often seem like the inevitable, monolithic background of modern history. This module will use primary sources, secondary histories, and film to examine capitalism instead as historically contingent and various, shifting shape in relation to geographical and historical context from the 15th century to the present. The module will include, but not be limited to, comparative considerations of capitalism’s alleged material origins in 15th century Genoa, 17th century England, and the transatlantic slave trade during the age of New World colonial empires; German and English traditions of theorizing capitalism’s “scientific” operations in the 18th and 19th centuries; the relationship of capitalist financial markets to agricultural life in late-nineteenth century Egypt and the United States; the role of imperial expansion in creating and/or undoing the British and U.S. capitalist “world systems” from the 19th to the 21st century; and comparative neoliberalism.


Seminar topics are likely to include the following:

  • World Systems Theory and Capitalism’s debated origins
  • Capitalism and Enlightenment, Capitalism and Modernity
  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx
  • Slavery, New World Empires, and Capitalist Acceleration
  • Finance and Agricultural Life in Egypt and the U.S.
  • Capitalism and State Power
  • Capitalism and Imperialism: Britain and the U.S.
  • Pinochet, Deng, Thatcher, Reagan: Neoliberalism in Context
  • Capitalism’s Futures