History—what is it good for?

This is a vital question at a time when the value of the humanities, in general, is under debate.

My answer: learning to think historically means understanding the world in greater depth—like putting on 4-D, rather than 3-D, glasses. It means paying careful attention to events and actors, to the context in which they occurred or acted, to change over time, and to the particular sequence of events (chronology).  It means grappling with complexity (differing rates of change, multi-causality) and with necessarily incomplete information. By understanding what happened and why, as well as what might have happened but didn't (and why), we gain a firmer grasp of our present condition and of the possibilities for change. What could be more useful?

History of capitalism—what is it?

As an area of academic study, the history of capitalism is relatively new. At its broadest, it encompasses three overlapping pools of scholarship. One focuses on the social and cultural experience of capitalism; another is concerned principally to test the concepts and methods of economics against its history; and a third, methodologically more eclectic, treats capitalism as the "dependent variable" and, paying close attention to its political underpinnings, asks why capitalism has taken the particular forms that it has in different times and places. The fundamental premise of this website is that the fullest understanding of the history of capitalism requires close attention to all of its dimensions—social, cultural, economic, and political.