Sie sind hier: FRIAS School of History Fellows Prof. Dr. Sven Beckert

Prof. Dr. Sven Beckert

Harvard University, USA

Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies
School of History

1989 M.A. in History at Columbia University, New York; 1995 PhD in History at Columbia University, New York; 1996–2000 Assistant Professor, Harvard University; 2000–2003 Dunwalk Associate Professor at Harvard University; since 2003 Liard Bell Professor at Harvard University


  • The Monied Metropolis. New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, Cambridge 2001.
  • Democracy and its Discontents. Contesting Suffrage Rights in Gilded Age New York. Past and Present 2002; 174: 114-155.
  • Emancipation and Empire. Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of American Civil War. American Historical Review, 2004; 109 (5): 1405-1438.
  • The American Bourgeoisie. Distinction and Identity in the Nineteenth Century, co-edited with Julia B. Rosenbaum, New York 2010.
  • Labor Regimes after Emancipation. The Case of Cotton. In: Marcel van der Linden (eds.): Grenzenüberschreitende Arbeitergeschichte. Konzepte und Erkundungen, Leipzig 2010; 139-155.


“The Empire of Cotton: A Global History”

The book “The Empire of Cotton” is going to explore the history of this most important commodity of the nineteenth century, and in doing so trace the history of the first great wave of capitalist globalization. In many ways, cotton is the key to unlocking the history of nineteenth-century capitalism and the global networks in which it was embedded. By inventing the factory as the most efficient way of producing textiles, cotton manufacturers recast the way humans worked. By demanding ever more cotton to feed their hungry factories in Lancashire and elsewhere, manufacturers encouraged a vast expansion of cotton lands and along with it the forced migration of millions of slaves as well as the colonialization of new territories. By producing ever more cotton textiles ever more efficiently, and selling them to markets throughout the world, cotton traders destroyed less efficient indigenous ways of producing textiles. In the process, they decisively moved the center of the industry from India to Western Europe and the United States, for example by turning India from a region of cotton exporters to a colony that consumed vast quantities of British yarn and cloth. Cotton, in short, was so central in nineteenth-century capitalism that most of its history could be told from the vantage-point of this agricultural commodity. From the perspective of the century as a whole, cotton’s importance can only be compared to oil’s centrality a hundred years later.