American Capitalism: A History

Examine how economic development fueled the United States’ evolution from 13 backwater colonies to a global power.
Perhaps no story is as essential to get right as the history of capitalism. Nearly all of our theories about promoting progress come from how we interpret the economic changes of the last 500 years. This past decade’s crises continue to remind us just how much capitalism changes, even as its basic features—wage labor, financial markets, private property, entrepreneurs—endure. While capitalism has a global history, the United States plays a special role in that story. This course will help you to understand how the United States became the world’s leading economic power, revealing essential lessons about what has been and what will be possible in capitalism’s on-going revolution.

In 2014, Louis Hyman and Edward Baptist launched the first MOOC on the history of American Capitalism.
The course--available on three platforms (EdX, Youtube, and podcast) -- traces the history of American capitalism from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the recent financial crisis of 2008.

Want to join a community of learners?

Audit this course for free and have complete access to all the course material, activities, tests, and forums. If your work is satisfactory and you abide by the Honor Code, you'll receive a personalized Honor Code Certificate to showcase your achievement.

Course Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:
  • Describe the development of American capitalism as a historical process that emerged from political choices, business cultures, entrepreneurial decisions, and technological transformations.
  • Recognize and criticize the policy programs derived from different analyses of capitalism.
  • Describe how government policies contribute to market success and failure.
  • Exercise reading, writing, and analytical skills vital to historical interpretation.
  • Display a critical sense of how capitalism is not a static economic system but changes over time.

Want to just watch the videos?

Every one of the 153 videos from the course is arranged, in order, in this playlist. Watch it by yourself, or integrate it into your classroom.
Want to listen on your way to work (or while at work)?

The audio portions of the videos have been repackaged for both iTunes and RSS, so that you can learn while doing something else entirely.