Colleen Dunlavy

Position title: Emeritus Professor


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.


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
M.A., University of California – Berkeley
B.A., 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

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