The Making of Global Capitalism, 1500–1914

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Winter 2018 quarter

Taught by

political economy, political science


Students should have previous experience with college-level work in history, political economy, or the social sciences.

Working together primarily in a seminar format, students and faculty will establish a historical, theoretical, and analytical understanding of the birth of capitalism in the crisis of 16th-century European feudalism, its rise and consolidation in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the development of the global political economy, and its first systemic crisis accompanied by a major burst of imperial expansion in the late 19th century. We will find this topic to be steeped in controversy.  

Capitalism has transformed the world materially, socially, and ecologically. We will consider the interrelationships among these three categories as capitalism developed and changed through its formative period. Major analytical categories will be imperialism, colonialism, and globalism, the accompanying ecological transformations, and the rise of social classes in resistance to these developments. We will study the rise of liberalism in its historical context, as well as its counterparts, conservatism and socialism. Understanding the trajectory, deep history, and logic of historical capitalism will provide students the insights and tools necessary to assess the current historical moment. The program will require close and careful reading and discussion, as well as considered and well-grounded writing. Our work will be conducted at an upper-division level, so students should have significant experience in close analytical reading, critical thinking, and research writing.

Program Details

Fields of Study

history political economy sociology

Preparatory For

history, political economy, political science, the nonquantitative social sciences, graduate school, and informed citizenship


Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Final Schedule and Room Assignment

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

No Required Online Learning