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Economic History, Historical Analysis, and the “New History of Capitalism”

  • Eric Hilt (a1)

This article presents a critical survey of ten books from the history of capitalism, a newly emerging subfield of history. At their best, the books offer provocative insights and vivid descriptions of some of the darker episodes of our economic past. Yet specious arguments and failures of analytical reasoning sometimes undermine these books' effectiveness as social criticism. I highlight insights from the field of economic history that would strengthen the work of historians of capitalism. I also suggest some opportunities for dialogue, if not collaboration, between the two communities of scholars.

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I would like to thank Bill Collins, Ann Carlos, Peter Conti-Brown, Robert DuPlessis, Philip Hoffman, John Majewski, Naomi Lamoreaux, Noam Maggor, Petra Moser, Dan Raff, Paul Rhode, Caitlin Rosenthal, Gavin Wright, and seminar participants at the University of Pennsylvania for helpful comments and suggestions.

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