History of Capitalism Reading List

Kent Peacock's picture

There is no question that trying to compile a comprehensive list about the history of capitalism is a daunting, if not impossible, task. Thus, take what follows as a very small sliver of what is available. Admittedly, this list is skewed heavily towards North and South America (with a bit of Great Britain thrown in) as those are the areas I am most familiar with. One will also notice how studies of capitalism often go beyond state borders and are becoming increasingly global in scope. I and the editors at H-Grad welcome any additions you wish to leave in the comments.

Foundations/Theory/ Overviews

Appleby, Joyce. The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.

Baucom, Ian. Specters of the Atlantic. Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

Beckert, Sven “History of Capitalism,” in American History Now, ed. Foner and McGirr  Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2011, pp. 314–335.

Bowles, Paul. CapitalismA Short History of a Big Idea. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2007.

Buck-Morss, Susan. “Envisioning Capital: Political Economy on Display.” Critical Inquiry 21 (Winter 1995): 434-67.

Duggan, Lisa. The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberals, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2003.

Federici, Sylvia. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation. New York: Autonomedia, 2004.

Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1963.

Fulcher, James. Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Graeber, David. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2012.

Graeber, David. Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Graeber, David. "Turning Modes of Production Inside Out: Or, Why Capitalism is a Transformation of Slavery." Critique of Anthropology 26 (2006): 61-85.

Harvey, David. A Companion to Marx’s Capital. And A Companion to Marx’s Capital, Volume 2.

Harvey, David. The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.

“Interchange: The History of Capitalism.” Journal of American History 101.2 (September 2014): 503-536.

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Kocka, Jürgen. "Writing the History of Capitalism." Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 47 (Fall 2010): 7-24.

Lenin, Vladimir Illich. “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”

Lipartito, Kenneth. “Connecting the Cultural and the Material in Business History.” Enterprise & Society 14 (December 2013): 686-704.

Marglin, Stephen. “What Do Bosses Do? The Origins and Functions of Hierarchy in Capitalist Production.” Review of Radical Political Economics6, no. 2 (July 1974): 60-112.

Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volumes 1-3.

Muller, Jerry Z. The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought. New York: Anchor Books, 2002.

Neal, Larry and Jeffrey Williamson, eds. The Cambridge History of Capitalism. 2 Volumes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

   - Note: There are many other “Cambridge History” volumes on specific areas of the world or thematic topics within capitalism. These, if not too out of date, are always a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with a topic.

Nkrumah, Kwame. Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1965.

Piketty, Thomas. Capital in the Twenty First Century. Cambridge: MA, Belknap Press, 2014.

Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time.

Rockman, Seth. “Review Essay: What Makes the History of Capitalism Newsworthy?” Journal of the Early Republic 34 (Fall 2014): 439-66.

Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. New York: HarperPerennial, 1975.

Sklansky, Jeffrey. “The Elusive Sovereign: New Intellectual and Social Histories of Capitalism.” Modern Intellectual History 9 (April 2012): 233-48.

Sklansky, Jeffrey. “Labor, Money, and the Financial Turn in the History of Capitalism.” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 11 (Spring 2014): 23-46.

Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization. London: Verso, 1995.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. World Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Sprit of Capitalism.

Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Oxford University Press, 1983.


There are also a few useful reading groups or Institutes on the history of capitalism available on the web:

Dunlavy, Colleen A. “History of Capitalism.” http://www.historyofcapitalism.net/index.html

“History of Capitalism Initiative.” http://hoc.ilr.cornell.edu

“The History of Capitalism at the University of Georgia.” http://capitalism.uga.edu

“Program on The Study of Capitalism at Harvard University.” http://studyofcapitalism.harvard.edu/home

“Readings in Capitalism and History.” http://readingsincapitalismandhistory.tumblr.com (although this site has not been updated since March 2015)


Agnew, Jean Christophe. Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550-1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Braudel, Fernand. Civilization and Capitalism: 15th-18th Century. Siân Reynolds, trans. London: Collins, 1981.

de Vries, Jan. “The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution.” Journal of Economic History 54 (June 1994): 249-270.

de Vries, Jan and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Duplessis, Robert S. Transitions to Capitalism in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Hobsbawn, Eric. The Age of Capital: 1848-1875. New York: Vintage Books, 1975.

Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Extremes, A History of the World: 1914-1991. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Landes, David S. The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

McKendrick, Neil, John Brewer, J.H. Plumb, eds. The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England. London: Europa Publications, 1982.

Poovey, Mary. Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Thompson, E.P. The Making of the English Working Class. Harmondsworth, UK: Pelican, 1968.

Thompson, E. P. “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” Past and Present 38 (Dec., 1967), pp. 56-97.

Wennerlind, Carl, Casualties of Credit: The English Financial Revolution, 1620-1720. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.


Abu-Lughod, Janet. Before European Hegemony: The World System AD 1250-1350. London: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Braudel, Fernand. Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.

Chaudhuri, K.N. Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Eichengreen, Barry. Globalizing Capital: A History of the International Monetary System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Fichter, James, So Great a Proffit: How the East Indies Trade Transformed Anglo-American Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Goldstone, Jack. “Efflorescences and Economic Growth in World History: Rethinking the "Rise of the West" and the Industrial Revolution.” Journal of World History 13 (2002): 323-379.

Grandin, Greg. Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014.

Inikori, Joseph. Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador, 2007.

McCraw, Thomas K., ed. Creating Modern Capitalism. How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

McNally, David. Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires, and Global Capitalism. Boston, MA: Brill, 2011.

Mintz, Sydney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking, 1985.

Mitman, Gregg and Paul Erickson. “Latex and Blood: Science, Markets, and American Empire,” Radical History Review 107 (Spring 2010): 45-73.

O'Brien, Patrick. "European Economic Development: The Contribution of the Periphery." The Economic History Review. 35, no. 1 (February 1982): 1-16.

Overton, Mark. Agricultural Revolution in England: The Transformation of the Agrarian Economy, 1500-1850. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Parthasarathi, Prasannan. Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Pomeranz, Kenneth. “Political Economy and Ecology on the Eve of Industrialization: Europe, China, and the Global Conjecture.” American Historical Review 107 (April 2002): 425-446.

Smallwood, Stephanie. Saltwater Slavery. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Solow, Barbara L.  and Stanley L. Engerman, eds. British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery: The Legacy of Eric Williams. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Soluri, John. Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2006.

Vilches, Elvira. New World Gold: Cultural Anxiety and Monetary Disorder in Early Modern Spain. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

White, Louise. “Cars Out of Place: Vampires, Technology, and Labor in East and Central Africa.” In Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, eds. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997. 436-60.

Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery.

Wong, R. Bin. “The Search for European Difference and Domination in the Early Modern World: A View from Asia,” American Historical Review 107 (April 2002): 447-469.

Woods, Ngaire. The Globalizers: The IMF, the World Bank, and their Borrowers. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007.

Latin America

Adelman, Jeremy. Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the Atlantic World. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Assadourian, Carlos Sempta. “The Colonial Economy: The Transfer of the European System of Production to New Spain and Peru.” Journal of Latin American Studies 24, (1992): 55-68.

Bakewell, P.J. Silver and Entrepreneurship in Seventeenth-Century Potosí: The Life and Times of Anthony López de Quiroga. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1988.

Bauer, Arnold J. Goods, power, history: Latin America's material culture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Block, Kristen. Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean: Religion, Colonial Competition, and the Politics of Profit. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

Cardoso, Fernando Henrique and Enzo Faletto. Dependency and Development in Latin America. Marjory Mattingly Urguidi, trans. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979.

Grandin, Greg. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Picador, 2009.

Green, Duncan. Silent Revolution: The Rise and Crisis of Market Economics in Latin America. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2003.

Gunder Frank, Andre. Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America: Historical Studies of Chile and Brazil. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969.

Kicza, John E. Colonial Entrepreneurs: Families and Business in Bourbon Mexico City. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.

O'Brien, Tom. The Century of U.S. Capitalism in Latin America. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

Orlove, Benjamin, ed. The Allure of the Foreign: Imported Goods in Postcolonial Latin America. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Ortiz, Fernando. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

Robinson, William. Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Sabato, Hilda. Agrarian Capitalism and the World Market: Buenos Aires in the Pastoral Age, 1840-1890. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Saldaña-Portillo, María Josefina. The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

Stern, Steve. “Feudalism, Capitalism, and the World-System in the Perspective of Latin America and the Caribbean.” The American Historical Review 93, no. 4 (October 1988): 829-872.

Striffler, Steve and Mark Moberg, eds. Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

Taussig, Michael. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Topik, Steven, Carlos Marichan, Zepher Frank, eds, From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building to the World Economy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Tutino, John. Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Bajío and Spanish North America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

United States

Appleby, Joyce. Capitalism and a New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790s. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

Appleby, Joyce. “The Vexed Story of Capitalism Told by American Historians,” Journal of the Early Republic 21 (2001): 1-18.

Balleisen, Edward. Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Baptist, Edward. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

Beckert, Sven. The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

BoydstonJeanne. Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Brands, H.W. American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900. New York, NY: Doubleday, 2010.

Breen, T. H., The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence. London: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Burgin, Angus. The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Bushman, Richard L. The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Chandler, Jr., Alfred. Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1994.

Chandler, Alfred D. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1977.

Clark, Christopher. The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780-1860. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Cohen, Lizabeth. A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Post War America. New York: Knopf, 2003.

Cronon, William. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991.

Dublin, Thomas. Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

Egerton, Douglas. “Markets Without a Market Revolution, Southern Planters and Capitalism.” The Journal of the Early Republic 16 (Summer, 1996): 207-221.

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth and Eugene D. Genovese. Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Gilje, Paul. "The Rise of Capitalism in the Early Republic." Journal of the Early Republic 16 (Summer 1996): 159–81.

Gutman, Herbert, “Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America, 1815-1919,” American Historical Review 78, No. 3 (June, 1973), pp. 531-88.

Henretta, James A. The Origins of American Capitalism: Collected Essays. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991.

Hoganson, Kristin. Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Huston, James L. Securing the Fruits of Labor: The American Concept of Wealth Distribution, 1765-1900. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University, 1998.

Hyman, Louis. Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Hyman, Louis and Edward E. Baptist. American Capitalism: A Reader. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Johnson, Walter. “‘The Pedestal and the Veil: Rethinking the Capitalism/Slavery Question’.” Journal of the Early Republic 24 (Summer 2004): 299-308.

Johnson, Walter. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Johnson, Walter. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Kulikoff , Allan. The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992.

Lamoreaux, Naomi. “Rethinking the Transition to Capitalism in the Early American Northeast,” Journal of American History 90 (2003): 437-61.

Larson, John Lauritz. The Market Revolution in America: Liberty, Ambition, and the Eclipse of the Common Good. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Leach, William. Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

Levy, Jonathan. Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Merrill, Michael. “The Anticapitalist Origins of the United States,” Review: Fernand Braudel Center, 13 (Fall 1990), 465-97.

Mihm, Stephen. A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Moreton, Bethany. To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Ott, Julia. When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Phillips-Fein, Kim. Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade against the New Deal. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.

Rockman, Seth. “The Future of Civil War Era Studies: Slavery and Capitalism.” http://journalofthecivilwarera.org/forum-the-future-of-civil-war-era-studies/the-future-of...

Rockman, Seth. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

Rockman, Seth. “The Unfree Origins of American Capitalism.” In The Economy of Early America; Historical Perspectives and New Directions, Cathy Matson, ed. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.

Rosenberg, Emily. Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982.

Rothenberg, Winifred B. From Market Places to a Market Economy: The Transformation of Rural Massachusetts, 1750-1850. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Sellers, Charles E. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America1815-1846. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Sklar, Martin J. The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, 1890-1916: The Market, the Law, and Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Taylor, Timothy. The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Wilentz, Sean. Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Zakim, Michael and Gary J. Kornblith, ed. Capitalism takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Zunz, Olivier. Making America Corporate, 1870-1920. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

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This is great, thank you for sharing.

After posting the initial blog, I found two additional resources that could be quite useful to those interested in the history of capitalism. The first is part of the "Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard University" that the original post already links to. Of particular use on the site is its "Teaching the History of Capitalism" section, which includes over 20 syllabi that professors have used at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The second is an annotated bibliography Brown University graduate students compiled in 2012. While not all the works listed in the document have remarks, the list includes many readings not included on my original list and might be helpful for those just looking into the field. If you are interested in seeing the list, please e-mail Dr. Seth Rockman (seth_rockman at brown dot edu).

Glad to hear that people have found this list useful.