Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism

The Series

Capitalism has served as an engine of growth, a source of inequality, and a catalyst for conflict in American history. While remaking our material world, capitalism’s myriad forms have altered—and been shaped by—our most fundamental experiences of race, gender, sexuality, nation, and citizenship. This series takes the full measure of the complexity and significance of capitalism, placing it squarely back at the center of the American experience. By drawing insight and inspiration from a range of disciplines and alloying novel methods of social, political, and cultural analysis with the traditions of labor and business history, our authors take history “from the bottom up” all the way to the top.


Those interested in publishing in the series should contact Stephen Wesley, editor at Columbia University Press (, with a proposal containing a brief description of the content and focus of the book, a table of contents or chapter outline, literature review and market analysis, and professional information about the author, including previous publications.

Published books

From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, by Joshua Clark Davis



Creditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America, by Josh Lauer 

  • Lauer on Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal
  • Reviewed in Publishers Weekly: “Mass surveillance of the American public has grown in technological sophistication and scope, but it isn’t a new phenomenon, and it’s being driven by capitalist enterprise rather than the government, argues Lauer, a professor of media studies, in this fascinating study of the credit-rating industry’s central role in creating the “modern surveillance society”… A thorough, enlightening, and long-overdue contribution to the field.”
  • Named a Notable Privacy and Security Book of 2017 by Technology | Academics | Policy
  • Lauer speaks with Adam Webb-Orenstein for Platypus – The Castac Blog.
  • Reviewed by Sarah E. Igo in The American Historical Review: “Crisply written, deeply researched, and forcefully argued, [Creditworthy] offers a reckoning with the informational infrastructure of modern capitalism, now a century and a half old. . . . In illuminating how the credit industry devised rules, formulas, and laws to tame this problem and also to profit from it, he has crafted a penetrating prehistory of our present dilemmas about data surveillance.”


American Capitalism: New Histories, edited by Sven Beckert and Christine Desan

  • “Few historical subfields are more important and timely than the critical history of capitalism. In this volume, Sven Beckert and Christine Desan have assembled cutting-edge work on topics as diverse as slavery, credit, insurance and risk, financial crises, race, gender, agriculture, and law and regulation. These essays combine chronological breadth, analytical depth, and geographic scope, linking the micro and macro, the local and the global. Essential reading.” —Thomas J. Sugrue, New York University
  • “American Capitalism represents the coming of age of a field of historical research. Rarely, in any field, has one volume featured the work of so many talented and accomplished historians. . . The editors have assembled a landmark and agenda-setting book that no student of economic life in the United States can afford to ignore.” —Jonathan Levy, University of Chicago
  • “This stunning volume not only captures the most vibrant, challenging work in the history of capitalism, but also distills the central themes and defining contributions of the field. The essays speak to all historians, not just those working in the history of capitalism. A must-read.” —Laura F. Edwards, Duke University
  • Read an excerpt here in Working Knowledge.


Buying Gay: How Physique Entrepreneurs Sparked a Movement, by David K. Johnson

  • “David K. Johnson’s Buying Gay is a groundbreaking work that reshapes how we think about queer history and its political movements. . . . Johnson’s lucid writing and enthralling story startlingly remaps and complicates movement history, suggesting that an army of consumers cannot lose.” —Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States
  • “This deeply researched book expands our understanding of pre-Stonewall gay male activism by describing a bold group of physique photographers, magazine publishers, and booksellers who were more militant than the Mattachine Society and built a far larger constituency through their explicit portrayal and defense of homoerotic desire. A revelatory and compelling history.” —George Chauncey, author of Gay New York
  • “In this intelligent work, historian Johnson . . . makes a compelling case that, in contrast to the academic tendency to dismiss physique magazines as mere artifacts of closeted life, physique entrepreneurs went on to found other businesses and ultimately created ‘a gay market.’ . . . This excellent history brings to light a little-known subject with a well-supported, unusual argument.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Banking on Freedom: Black Women in U.S. Finance Before the New Deal, by Shennette Garrett-Scott

banking on freedom book

  • “Recovering the important and active role black women have played in the development of modern American capitalism, Shennette Garrett-Scott’s Banking on Freedom is a paradigm-shifting work that stands to make a monumental contribution to the field and is certain to inspire future generations of scholars.” —Tiffany Gill, University of Delaware
  • “Professor Garrett-Scott’s extensively researched and documented study details the history of the Independent Order of St. Luke as it transformed from an insurance company founded by and for Black women to the establishment of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903. The book provides a tremendously monumental contribution to African American banking history.” —Juliet E. K. Walker, author of The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship
  • “This recovery of one aspect of black women’s history will appeal to scholars as well as those with a serious interest in the history of finance and women’s history.” —Publishers Weekly



Threatening Property: Race, Class, and Campaigns to Legislate Jim Crow Neighborhoods, by Elizabeth Herbin-Triant

threatening property book

  • “Herbin-Triant tackles a surprisingly neglected aspect of the Jim Crow era—efforts to impose residential segregation in urban and rural areas. Insightfully integrating considerations of race and class, and probing how they intersected with the defense of property rights, she sheds new light on attempts to legally separate blacks and whites. An important contribution to southern and American history.” —Eric Foner, Columbia University
  • “When Clarence Poe of the Progressive Farmer launched his 1913 campaign to segregate the rural south, it divided opinion in surprising ways. In her nuanced, well-supported, and crisply written social history, Elizabeth Herbin-Triant explores the intersection of race, class, and ideological fault lines in this story of strange bedfellows.” —Mark Schultz, author of The Rural Face of White Supremacy: Beyond Jim Crow
  • Check out her related 2017 article published in the Journal of Southern History, “Race and Class Friction in North Carolina Neighborhoods: How Campaigns for Residential Segregation Law Divided Middling and Elite Whites in Winston-Salem and North Carolina’s Countryside, 1912-1915


City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York, by Joshua B. Freeman

city of workers, city of struggle book

  • City of Workers, City of Struggle reveals how early colonists, later immigrants, and rural migrants became central to New York City’s manufacturing, trading, and financial industries. Evocatively illustrated, each chapter offers tales of mobilization and resistance experienced by diverse and ever changing populations of New Yorkers. Together these chapters provide powerful insights into the interdependence of labor and capital.” —Alice Kessler-Harris, coeditor of Democracy and the Welfare State: The Two Wests in an Age of Austerity
  • “At last! A pathbreaking history of New York laborers that runs from colonial-era artisans and slaves to today’s alt-labor organizers. Broadly conceived, it covers not only craft and industrial and white collar workers, but home workers, maritime workers, public workers, sex workers, health care workers, domestic workers, and criminals in the underground economy. It attends not only to unionization, but to the evolving nature of work, housing, leisure, politics, and culture. Vividly written, and copiously illustrated, City of Workers, City of Struggle is a superb and timely introduction to Gotham’s working people, past and present.” —Mike Wallace, coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
  • Check out the exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York related to the book!


How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing, 1890–1960 by Paige Glotzer

  • “Glotzer tackles a complicated subject with nuance and an attention to detail that is remarkable. While there are many highly acclaimed books on the history of housing segregation and racial exclusion in suburbia, none of these have approached the topic from the perspective of developers and capital investors, much less followed the money, in the way Glotzer has.”—Andrew W. Kahrl, University of Virginia.
  • Glotzer writes about the transnational history of US housing segregation for Public Seminar
  • Explore interactive maps showing connections between British investment and segregated suburban development





Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Idea of the Idea Economy, by Alex Sayf Cummings

  • “An excellent treatment of the emergence of the post-industrial economy in the U.S. South, Cummings does a great job of chronicling the seeds of economic transformation using a well-known, but underexplored, case study.” —Bill Graves, UNC Charlotte








Forthcoming books

We are pleased to announce the following forthcoming books in the Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism series:

The Thread: Slavery, Cotton and Atlantic Finance from the Louisiana Purchase to Reconstruction, by Kathryn Boodry

Door-to-Door Capitalism: Direct Selling in America from the New Deal to the Internet Age, by Jessica Burch

Black Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and Capitalist Enterprise in South Carolina, by Justene Hill Edwards

Feminism at Work: Women, Gender, and Success in Corporate America, by Allison Elias

Bailouts and a Balanced Economy: A New History of the American State, 1913-1939, by Judge Glock

The Color of Development: Land, Liberalism, and the Unmaking of Jim Crow Capitalism in the Rural South, by Alec Fazackerley Hickmott

Histories of Racial Capitalism, edited by Destin Jenkins and Justin Leroy

Empire and the Afterlife of Slavery: Black Anti-Imperialisms of the Long Nineteenth Century, by Justin Leroy

The Color of Bankruptcy:Financial Failure and Freedom in the Age of American Slavery, by Rafael I. Pardo

Cooperative Battlegrounds, by Kate Rosenblatt

Faith in Markets: Christian Capitalism in the Early Republic, by Joseph P. Slaughter

Refining the Desert: The Texas Oil Industry and the Politics of Environmental Indifference, by Sarah Stanford-McIntyre

Family Capital: Yankee Kinship Networks and the Shaping of the Global Economy, by Rachel Tamar Van

When Good Government Meant Big Government: The Quest to Strengthen the American State, 1918-1933, by Jesse Tarbert

Series editors

Devin Fergus is Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor of History and Black Studies at University of Missouri. His research focuses on the historical mechanisms driving contemporary inequality. His first book, Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980 (Georgia, 2009) was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book. Fergus is finishing his second book, Land of the Fee, which examines the rise of consumer finance fees and its impact on the wealth gap in America since the 1970s. Fergus is also guest editor of “Banking without Borders: Culture and Credit in the New Financial World” for Kalfou, a journal published by Temple University Press. This special issue examines the impact four decades of financial deregulation have had on race, gender, immigration, culture, and class. He received his Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University.

louis-hymanLouis Hyman is Associate Professor of History at the ILR School of Cornell University. Raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Hyman attended Columbia University, where he received a BA in History and Mathematics. A former Fulbright scholar and McKinsey consultant, Hyman received his PhD in American history in 2007 from Harvard University. His dissertation received the Harold K. Gross Prize for best dissertation in history at Harvard and the Krooss prize for best dissertation in business history nationally. His first book, Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink (Princeton University Press, 2011), focused on the history of the political economy of debt and was selected as one of the 2011 Choice Top 25 Outstanding Books of the Year. His second book, Borrow: The American Way of Debt (Vintage, 2012), explained how American culture shaped finance and in turn how finance shaped culture. Currently he is working on his third book, entitled Short-Sighted: The Rise of Flexible Corporations and Temporary Work in Postwar America.

bethany-moretonBethany Moreton is Professor of History at Dartmouth College. Since receiving her doctorate in history at Yale in 2006, she has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge and a fellow at the Harvard Divinity School and the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin. Her first book, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Harvard University Press, 2009) won the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for best first book in U.S. history, the John Hope Franklin Award for the best book in American Studies, and the Emerging Scholar in the Humanities award from the University of Michigan. She is a founding member of the Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas and a founding faculty member of Freedom University, which offers college coursework without charge to qualified Georgia high school graduates regardless of immigration status.

julia-ottJulia Ott is Associate Professor of the History of Capitalism at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts and New School for Social Research, and the co-director of the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies. Ott’s first book, When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2011), tells the story of how financial markets and institutions—commonly perceived as marginal and elitist at the beginning of the twentieth century—first came to be seen as the bedrock of American capitalism. It traces how investment in bonds and stock—once considered disreputable and dangerous—first become a mass practice in the first three decades of the twentieth century. That book won the 2013 Vincent J. DeSantis Prize for the Best Book in the History of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Ott received her PhD in History from Yale University in 2007.