Colleen Dunlavy

My interests center on what I have come to think of as the history of capitalism -- an amalgam of business history, the history of technology, labor history, legal history, and political economy, with healthy doses of (quantitative) economic, social, and cultural history. At heart, I am a comparativist with special interests in the U.S. and Europe (especially Germany) in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

A key theme motivating my research, writing, and teaching is the relationship between political and economic change -- in particular, understanding the manifold ways in which politics, broadly construed, has shaped economic change. Under the rubric of "politics," I include not only policymaking (regulation and promotion) but also the (largely overlooked) effects on capitalist activity of the overall structure of political institutions.

My current research interests include: the history of shareholder voting rights in the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany in the nineteenth century; the history of "economic history" since the turn of the the twentieth century; the history of chain stores in the U.S. and Germany, 1870s-1930s; and the standardization movement in the U.S. and internationally in the 1920s.


  • PhD - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • MA - University of California - Berkeley
  • BA - University of California - Berkeley 

Selected Publications:

  • With Thomas Welskopp. “Peculiarities and Myths: Comparing U.S. and German Capitalism.” German Historical Institute Bulletin no. 41 (Fall 2007): 33-64.
  • “Social Conceptions of the Corporation: Insights from the History of Shareholder Voting Rights.” Washington and Lee Law Review, vol. 63, no. 4 (2006): 1347-1388. Reprinted in Rivista delle società, nr. 2/2007 March-April.
  • “Why Did Some American Businesses Get So Big?” In Major Problems in American Business History. Edited by Regina Blaszczyk and Philip Scranton. New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006. pp. 257-263.
  • “From Citizens to Plutocrats: 19th-Century Shareholder Voting Rights and Theories of the Corporation.” In Constructing Corporate America: History, Politics, Culture, eds. Kenneth Lipartito and David Sicilia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 66-93.
  • Politics and Industrialization: Early Railroads in the United States and Prussia. Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Ira Katznelson, Marin Shefter, and Theda Skocpol. Princeton Studies in Business and Technology, edited by David Hounshell. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1994).

Selected Awards:

  • Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, Spring 2004
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program Grant, 1999-2000; Officer’s Grant, 1997-98
  • Fellow, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1998-99
  • Thomas Newcomen Award (co-winner) for best book in business history published in the years 1992-1994, 1998
  • German Marshall Fund Research Fellowship, 1997-98
  • Romnes Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1997-2002
  • Vilas Associate Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1995-97
  • German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Study Visit, Berlin, 1992
  • American Council of Learned Societies Research Fellowship for Recent
    Recipients of the PhD, 1989

Advisor To:

  • Cam Hutchison

History Courses:

  • History 109 - History of American Capitalism - Syllabus 2013 (pdf)
  • History 247 - American Business History - Syllabus 2013 (pdf)
  • History 329 – History of American Capitalism - Syllabus 2015 (pdf)
  • History 411 - History of American Technology
  • History 500 - History Politics of Capialism - The Corporation 
  • History 537 - Theories of History
  • History 600 - American Capitalism - Syllabus 2009 (pdf)
  • History 600 - Corporations in American History - Syllabus 2007 (pdf)
  • History 600 - Globalization - Syllabus 2013 (pdf)
  • History 680/690 - Honors Thesis Colloquium - Syllabus 2010 (pdf)
  • History 701 - History in a Global Perspective - Syllabus 2016 (pdf)
  • History 703 - History and Theory
  • History 710 - Digital History - Syllabus 2017 (pdf)
  • History 753 - The Industrial Powers, 1860s-1910s
  • History 822 - History Politics of Capitalism - The Corporation"
  • History 900 - Intro to History for U.S. Historians - Syllabus 2011 (pdf)
  • History 901 - Studies in American History

Colleen Dunlavy


Director of Graduate Studies


History of Capitalism

5109 Mosse Humanities

5005 Mosse Humanities

Office Hours:
Wednesdays 3:00-5:00