Sven Beckert

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Beckert speaking at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2016

Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University, where he teaches the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, and global history.[1] With Christine A. Desan, he is the co-director of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard University.[2]

He was an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow in 2008.[3] He was a Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies Fellow.[4] He was a New York Public Library Fellow.[5] He is a Guggenheim Fellow.[6]


He studied history, economics and political science at the University of Hamburg, Germany and then graduated from Columbia University with a PhD in History.


In 2003, Beckert worked at the University of Konstanz as a Humboldt Research Fellow.[7][8]


He is the author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History (2014), which won the 2015 Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for History.[9] The New York Times called it "one of the ten best books of 2015."[10] Economic historian Peer Vries wrote that it was "a must read for every historian interested in global history, but in my view it is better as a story on cotton than as an analysis of capitalism."[11] Other economic historians have criticized the book.[12]

Comaroff petition[edit]

In February 2022, Beckert was one of 38 Harvard faculty to sign an open letter published in The Harvard Crimson defending Professor John Comaroff after a university investigation found that he had violated the Harvard's sexual and professional conduct policies. The letter stated, in part, that "We the undersigned know John Comaroff to be an excellent colleague, advisor, and committed university citizen.” Four days later, after three graduate students filed a lawsuit with detailed allegations of Comaroff's actions and the university's failure to respond, Beckert was one of several signatories to say that they wished to retract their signatures.[13][14]


  • Beckert, Sven (2014). Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-385-35325-0.
  • —— (2001). The Monied Metropolis. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-52410-0.

Journal articles[edit]

Edited volumes[edit]


  1. ^ "History of American Civilization Department Profile". Archived from the original on October 19, 2007.
  2. ^ "Christine A. Desan". Harvard Law School. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "ACLS profile: Sven Beckert F'08". Archived from the original on January 8, 2011.
  4. ^ "Prof. Dr. Sven Beckert - Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies". Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  5. ^ "Past Fellows: 1999-2008". Archived from the original on July 27, 2011.
  6. ^ "Sven Beckert - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on October 8, 2011.
  7. ^ "Prof. Dr. Sven Beckert". Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  8. ^ "Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation - The American dream and a hankering for Europe". 2011-01-31. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  9. ^ "The 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winners History". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  10. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2015". The New York Times. 2015-12-03. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  11. ^ Vries, Peter (2017). "Cotton, Capitalism, and Coercion: Some Comments on Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton". Journal of World History. 28: 131–140. doi:10.1353/jwh.2017.0006. S2CID 148748204.
  12. ^ Olmstead, Alan L.; Rhode, Paul W. (2018). "Cotton, slavery, and the new history of capitalism". Explorations in Economic History. 67: 1–17. doi:10.1016/j.eeh.2017.12.002.
  13. ^ Cho, Isabella B.; Kim, Ariel H.; Crimson Staff Writers (February 4, 2022), "38 Harvard Faculty Sign Open Letter Questioning Results of Misconduct Investigations into Prof. John Comaroff", The Harvard Crimson, retrieved 2022-02-09
  14. ^ Krantz, Laura (February 9, 2022), "Three graduate students file sexual harassment suit against prominent Harvard anthropology professor", The Boston Globe, retrieved 2022-02-09

External links[edit]