Virtual Event | "Adam Smith’s America: How a Scottish Philosopher Became an Icon of American Capitalism"

Event Details

End: April 10, 2023

This event is part of the Washington History Seminar series. It is sponsored by the AHA and features author Glory Liu and commentators Angus Burgin and Sophia Rosenfeld. Register here. 

How did Adam Smith, an eclectic 18th-century Scottish philosopher, become known as the patron saint of free-market economics? In Adam Smith's America, Liu traces how generations of Americans, from the Founding Fathers to Chicago economists, have read, reinterpreted, and weaponized Adam Smith's ideas. She reveals how his popular image as a champion of free market fundamentalism is a historical invention, and also how Smith continues to be a vehicle for articulating perennial moral and political anxieties about capitalism today. 

Glory M. Liu is a Lecturer in Social Studies at Harvard. She received her PhD in Political Science from Stanford in 2018, holds an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from Cambridge University, and a B.A. in Political Economy and Classics from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Modern Intellectual History, Aeon Magazine, and The Nation. Adam Smith's America is her first book.

Sophia Rosenfeld is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches European and American intellectual and cultural history with a special emphasis on the Enlightenment, the trans-Atlantic Age of Revolutions, and the legacy of the eighteenth century for modern democracy. She is the author of A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001); Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard, 2011), which won the Mark Lynton History Prize and the Society for the History of the Early American Republic Book Prize; and Democracy and Truth: A Short History (Penn Press, 2019). 

Angus Burgin is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. His research and teaching focuses on topics related to intellectual history, transnational history, and the history of political economy since the 1930s. His book, The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression, explores the transformation of market advocacy over the middle decades of the twentieth century. It received the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the Joseph Spengler Prize from the History of Economics Society. He is currently writing a book on the intellectual history of the internet.