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Sven Beckert

8 Podcast Episodes

Latest 24 Sep 2022 | Updated Daily

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Ep #35 "Empire of Cotton: A Conversation with Sven Beckert"

A Rebel Without Applause: The Bill Kalmenson Podcast

Spinning threads and weaving truth.    The origins of the first world and the debt we owe.... 


30 Sep 2020

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The Empire of Cotton: Sven Beckert in conversation with Patrick French

Jaipur Bytes

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. Patrick French is a biographer and historian, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor for the Public Understanding of the Humanities at Ahmedabad University. This episode is a live session from day 2 of #ZEEJLF2019.


21 Mar 2019

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Cotton trade and the emergence of capitalism, with Sven Beckert


How did cotton trade, slavery and colonialism play a role in the emergence of capitalism? What role did cotton play in India's struggle for freedom? How was capitalism re-imagined around the 1950s? This enlightening conversation between historian and author of Empire of Cotton, Sven Beckert and Patrick French, sheds some light on how the present global world came to exist on the foundation of cotton trade. You can follow us and leave us feedback on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @expresspodcasts, or send us an email at podcasts@indianexpress.com. If you like this show, please subscribe and leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, so other people can find us. You can also find us on http://www.indianexpress.com/audio.


16 Mar 2019

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6: Cotton trade and the emergence of capitalism, with Sven Beckert


Join the historian and author of "Empire of Cotton" in conversation with Patrick French about how cotton trade, slavery and colonialism played a role in the emergence of capitalism.


16 Mar 2019

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An Interview with AHR Author Sven Beckert on His Article “American Danger”

AHR Interview

In this pilot episode of AHR Interview, a production of the American Historical Review, intern Clay Catlin speaks with Sven Beckert about his article “American Danger: United States Empire, Eurafrica, and the Territorialization of Industrial Capitalism, 1870–1950,” which appears in the journal’s October 2017 issue. Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the author of the 2001 book The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie and the 2014 book Empire of Cotton: A Global History, which won the Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Most recently he served as coeditor for the 2016 volume Slavery's Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development. Read the article at https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/122/4/1137/4320241/American-Danger-United-States-Empire-Eurafrica-and?redirectedFrom=fulltext


4 Oct 2017

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Cotton: Sven Beckert (Ep. 17)

The Secret Ingredient

Cotton. Not quite a food item, but a plant nonetheless with a rather complicated history and an enduring relevance in our lives. Today, a typical day cannot pass without using this pillowy crop that rules our commodified lives. In this edition of the Secret Ingredient with Raj Patel, Tom Philpott, and Rebecca McInroy: Sven Beckert, Harvard University professor, historian, and author of the 2014 book “Empire of Cotton,” discusses the significance of cotton as the most important commodity of the 19th century, as well as the violent history cotton production has in the Southern United States, and most importantly the pivotal role cotton plays in the enterprise of capitalism we know today. We ‘d also like to welcome a very special guest to our show for a new segment called “Letter From a Correspondent,” it’s the world-renowned economist Dr. James K. Galbraith; author of, most recently, “Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe.”

1hr 10mins

10 Aug 2016

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Sven Beckert | Clinton School Presents

Clinton School Podcasts

Interview with Sven Beckert for NPR affiliate KUAR on Clinton School Presents, a weekly dialogue of distinguished guests that visit the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Arkansas. Nikolai DiPippa, Clinton School Director of Public Programs, sat down with Sven Beckert, who is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University. Beckert’s research and teaching center on the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political and transnational dimensions. His publications have focused on the history of economic elites, on labor, on democracy and, in recent years, on the global history of capitalism. Beckert teaches courses on the history of American capitalism, Gilded Age America, the political economy of modern capitalism, labor history and global capitalism. He is co-chair of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard University, and the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, also at Harvard. Beyond Harvard, he co-chairs an international study group on global history, is co-editor of a series of books at Princeton University Press on “America in the World,”and has co-organized a series of conferences on the history of capitalism. He has received many fellowships and awards, including the Newcomen Fellowship at Harvard Business School, and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Beckert is a Guggenheim Fellow. He has lectured all over the world.

15 Feb 2016

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Sven Beckert’s Cotton: Guilty Fabric of our Lives

The Money Machine

For the Delta to become the chief grower of the industrial world’s most important commodity – a kind of Saudi Arabia of the early 19th century – its land had to be taken from its original inhabitants; and labor, capital, knowledge, and state power had to be mobilized… Wealth, as viewed from the front porches of the lavish and elegantly furnished mansions in the Delta, appeared to flow out of the soil, the result of a strange alchemy that combined emptied lands, slave labor, and… the never-ending flow of European capital. From Empire of Cotton, A Global History, by Sven Beckert. Knopf 2014. p. 113. Sven Beckert at Harvard is the point man in a fascinating project to rethink Capitalism not as “dismal science” but as lively “biography.” His exhilarating Empire of Cotton — aptly called “remarkable and unsettling” — is a 250-year profile of a commodity that pre-dates the Industrial Revolution but came to model and drive the drastic growth of invention and productivity after, say, 1780. The deeper we plow in Beckert’s history, the more we feel we’re watching the unfolding adventures of a complex and contradictory stage character, maybe two. Cotton itself – the fiber and “fabric of our lives” nowadays — has an ancient Asian pedigree. Until the middle of the 18th Century, it is almost a stranger in Europe, which dressed more in wool, flax and silk. And then quickly, the imperial expansion of Europe (England in the lead) captures (literally!) the labor of West Africa, the low-tech of Asia and the farm lands of Latin America, the Caribbean and the Mississippi Delta. And so a global colossus takes shape around a burst of European inventions that multiply the speed of spinning and weaving cotton by several hundred fold into the 19th century. And of course it thrives in North America. The politics of Cotton Capitalism suffers a near-catastrophic breakdown in the US Civil War, yet cotton cultivation keeps growing without slavery – on the bargain price of many other kinds of captive labor in Egypt and India, for example, in the share-cropping American South and today in the fields of Kazakhstan and West Africa. Textile production gravitates back toward Asia, toward the “almost absurdly dangerous” and noisy factories of Bangladesh in the present day. What we’re learning about our long-lived twin protagonists is that both cotton and capitalism are inventive and mobile; energetic to an extreme, resourceful, often predatory, opportunistic and instinctively global in their ambition and reach. They have radically increased human productivity and improved living standards in general. At the same time they have fattened on coercive, often violent exploitation and environmental devastation. They still do. What Sven Beckert would ask us to remember as we order up our elegant Uniqlo T-shirts for embarrassingly few pennies is that “the global story of cotton is a story of great change… great tragedy… great courage… The world we live in today was created by people who’ve been enslaved for many generations – by taking the land of America’s native people… That legacy is still with us.”


12 Jan 2015