Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: United States History
Competition: US & Canada
Known for the depth and scope of his historical writings, Sven Beckert has the rare ability to show the interconnectedness of social, cultural, political, and economic factors, and the reciprocal influences of the global and local in driving historical events or trends. His studies of various aspects of United States and global history have taken him from the late seventeenth century to the mid twentieth century, from West Africa to New York City, and from fascism to capitalism.
Among his more than three dozen articles in influential historical journals and anthologies are “Democracy and its Discontents: Contesting Suffrage Rights in Gilded Age New York,” Past & Present (February 2002); “Class and Politics: The Case of New York’s Bourgeoisie” in Who Ran the Cities? (Ashgate, 2007), edited by Ralf Roth and Robert Beachy; “Emancipation and Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the American Civil War,” American Historical Review, 109 (2004); and “From Tuskegee to Togo: The Problem of Freedom in the Empire of Cotton,” Journal of American History, 92 (2005). He is also the author of three monographs—Bis zu diesem Punkt und nicht weiter: Arbeitsalltag während des Zweiten Weltkriegs in einer Industrieregion (Frankfurt: Verlag für akademische Studien, 1990); The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie (Cambridge UP, 2001; paperback ed., 2003); and The Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf, forthcoming)—and the editor (with Julia Rosenbaum) of The American Bourgeoisie (Palgrave, 2010).
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Mr. Beckert studied at the University of Hamburg before moving to the United States to continue his education at Columbia University. His undergraduate and graduate studies received support from the highly competitive German program Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (1985–90; dissertation fellowship, 1991–94); a Presidential Fellowship from Columbia University (1988–92); a fellowship from the Center for Labor-Management Policy Studies (1991–92); and a MacArthur Dissertation Fellowship for Research in Peace and Conflict (1991).
On completing his Ph.D. at Columbia in 1995, he spent a year as Newcomen Fellow in Business History at the Harvard Business School, and immediately thereafter he accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor of History at Harvard University. Advancing rapidly, he was promoted to Dunwalke Associate Professor in 2000 and became a tenured full professor in 2003. Since 2008 he has held the Laird Bell Professorship in History. He is also a Faculty Affiliate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, a Faculty Associate at the Center for American Political Studies, and a member of the steering committee for the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.
Mr. Beckert has given lectures across the United States and around the globe and organized conferences in the U.S. and Europe on the topics “History of American Capitalism (2007, 2009, 2011), “Global History, Globally” (2008, 2010, 2011), “Making Europe: The Global Origins of the Old World” (2010), “The New History of American Capitalism” (2011), and “Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” (2011). He directs, with Christine Desan, the Harvard Initiative on the Study of Capitalism, and, with Charles Maier, the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University.
During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, Sven Beckert will be continuing his work on his next book, tentatively titled A Global History of Capitalism.