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High School Teacher's Institute: Jamie Pietruska
Friday, March 23, 2018, 09:00am - 02:30pm

Science, Technology, and Capitalism in the Long Gilded Age

Friday, March 23, 2018, 9am-2:30pm
Jamie Pietruska, Assistant Professor, Department of History

The decades after the American Civil War and Reconstruction are often understood as a “search for order” in which the rise of corporate capitalism, new transportation and communication networks, scientific discovery and technical innovation, and new forms of expertise and management created an underlying order, system, and rationality that enabled the United States to become an economic superpower by the turn of the twentieth century. This seminar will draw upon new research by historians of science and technology and historians of capitalism to reconsider the Long Gilded Age (1880-1920) as a period in which technological infrastructures and scientific knowledge often had the unintended consequence of creating volatility, uncertainty, and disorder in the economy. Specific topics will include controversies over new kinds of weather, crop, and business forecasts that were used as tools for risk management but often perpetuated the uncertainty they were designed to conquer; the rise of commodity futures trading and the ensuing legal battles over the differences between speculation and gambling; and, scandals over fraud in the contexts of dinosaur fossil hunting, sugar manufacturing, and patent medicine advertising.

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