PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University and Harvard University will jointly sponsor a conference titled “Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development,” which aims to explore the role of slavery in the economic rise of the United States. Sponsored by Brown’s Office of the Provost, the Harvard University Center for American Political Studies, and the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard, the conference will take place April 7-9, 2011, on the campuses of both universities.
The conference will open with a keynote address by Brown President Ruth J. Simmons at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Salomon Center for Teaching, De Ciccio Family Auditorium.
The three-day conference will showcase the latest research on how slavery shaped the development of American financial institutions, managerial practices, and commercial networks, as well as the course of New England’s industrial revolution. “Slavery stretched far beyond the plantation to structure the lives and livelihoods of Americans in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island,” said Seth Rockman, associate professor of history at Brown and conference co-organizer.
The conference will feature scholars from around the country, including University of Alabama, University of Chicago, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of North Carolina, Southern Methodist University, Stanford University, and University of Texas. Presentations will document the Cuban investments of New England capitalists, the centrality of cotton to the emerging financial system, the plantation origins of advanced accounting methods, and the place of slavery in legal theories of private property.
“The aim of the conference is to acknowledge a new history of American capitalism that recognizes slavery as a constitutive element of the nation’s economic rise between the American Revolution and the Civil War,” said Sven Beckert, the Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard and co-organizer of the conference.
Conference sessions run Friday at Brown and Saturday at Harvard, with a concluding round table discussion Saturday at 4 p.m. A full conference schedule is available online at brown.edu/web/slaveryconf/schedule.