Ott, Julia

Julia Ott

Julia  Ott
PhD, History, Yale University, 2007;
MA & MPhil, History, 2002;
BA, History (certificate in American Studies), Princeton University, 1997
Visiting Scholar, Russell Sage Foundation, 2009-2010
Associate Professor of History

During my lifetime, American political culture has been distinguished by a pervasive belief that individual freedom is best guaranteed by freedom of the market. Since the Reagan Revolution, the collective solutions that once nurtured the American middle class – including labor unions along with government and corporate-sponsored social provisions – have come under fire for impeding the dynamic individualism of American capitalism. Government withdrew from the realm of social protection and provision. De-regulation and privatization and de-regulation reigned supreme in domestic economic policy. As a result, inequality increased while the economic well-being of American households was yoked ever more tightly to increasingly unregulated financial markets. Stock prices came to be perceived as a real-time referendum on both corporate and national economic performance.

The assumption that self-governing financial markets and expert financial actors distribute resources efficiently and allocate risk to those best able to bear it encouraged the free-wheeling securitization and regulatory laxity which torpedoed the economy in 2008. In the aftermath of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, even those that labored to reform the financial system continued to adhere to the axiom that financial markets and institutions constitute the bedrock of American capitalism.

Today, few ask why so much faith was placed in finance as the engine of economic growth and stability in the first place. Rabid reactions against all attempts to repair the frayed social safety net reveal the tenacity of anti-government, pro-business sentiment among the American public.

The “neo-liberal” political-economic beliefs of the last thirty-odd years stand in marked contrast with the great reform movements of American history, which sought to reign in rampaging capitalism. Further, they repudiate the political-economic regime of the post-World War II period, a modern liberalism grounded in mass purchasing power, the self-financing corporation, the welfare state, and Keynesian economic policy.

How can history help us account for this generation’s rather unique faith in laissez-faire? This is the question that motivates me most as a researcher and as a teacher.
Courses Taught:
  • Know Your Red States!
  • Consumer Culture in American History
  • United States Economic and Business History
  • History of Wall Street
  • Women and Gender in the United States: the Twentieth Century
  • Women and Gender in Early America
  • Readings on the Right
  • Markets in History: Interdisciplinary Perspective
Recent Publications:
  • When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2011)

  • “‘The Free and Open People’s Market’: Political Ideology and Retail Brokerage at the New York Stock Exchange, 1913-1933,” Journal of American History vol. 96 no. 1 (June 2009): 44-71.

  • “When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy and the Emergence of the Retail Investor in the United States, 1890-1930,” Enterprise and Society vol. 9 no. 4 (December 2008): 619-630.
Office Location:
The New School for Social Research
Committee on Historical Studies
80 Fifth Ave, Room 519
New York, NY  10011
Office Hours:
W 2:30-4:30
Phone Number/Extension:
212-229-5376 x2065


Research Interests:
20th century American history, financial and business history, political conservatism, consumer culture, women's and gender history
Professional Affiliations:
  • American Historical Association
  • American Studies Association
  • Economic History Association
  • Business History Conference
Recent Presentations/Exhibits:
  • “The NYSE and the Origins of Supply-Side Economics,” Organization of American Historians Annual Conference, April 2012

  • “Not All of Us Were Keynesians: Supply-Side Economics before the Reagan Revolution,” Seminar on History and Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, October 2011

  • “When Wall Street Met Main Street,” Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy, University of California, Santa Barbara, February 2011

  • “Muckraking the Trading Floor,” Organization of American Historians Annual Conference, April 2010

  • “Supporting the Price of Patriotism: Federal Interventions in the Bond Market, 1917-1929,” Business History Conference, March 2010

  • “Be a Shareholder in Victory! Financial Nationalism and the American Citizen Investor in World War I,” Initiative for Historical Social Sciences, Department of History, State University of New York at Stony Brook, November 2009

  • “The Social Imaginary of Finance in the First World War,” Committee on Historical Studies, New School University, October 2008

  • “When Wall Street Met Main Street,” Business History Conference Krooss Prize Session, April 2008

  • “The Emergence of a Mass Investment Culture in the United States, 1919-1929,” NYU Stern School of Business, April 2008

  • “ ‘The Free and Open People's Market’:” New York Stock Exchange Public Relations & the Social Imaginary of Finance, 1890-1929, Committee on Historical Studies, New School for Social Research, April 2008

  • " ‘The Free and Open People's Market’:" New York Stock Exchange Public

  • Relations, 1913-1929,” Political Economy Seminar, Harvard University, February 2008

  • "From New Proprietorship to New Era: Marking a Shareholders' Democracy in the United States, 1919-1929," Economic Department Colloquium, New School for Social Research, 2007

  • "The Ownership Society in the American Political Imagination," American Political Science Association Conference, 2006

  • "From the New Proprietorship to the New Era: Investorist Theory and Policy, 1917-1929," Policy History Conference, 2006

  • "Be A Stockholder in Victory!': The American Citizen-Investor in War and Peace," Miller Center Fellows Conference, 2006
Competitions and Appearances:

Radio Appearances

  • Julia Ott discusses When Wall Street Met Main Street with Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer on June 18, 2011

  • Julia Ott discusses the national debt ceiling with NPR's Backstory with the American History Guys on July 27, 2011
Awards and Honors:
  • Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, New York City, 2009-2010
  • Interdisciplinary Seminar Grant, Tobin Project, 2009-2010

  • Finalist, Krooss Prize for the Best Dissertation in Business History, Business History Conference, 2008
  • Miller Center Fellowship in Contemporary History, Policy, and Politics, University of Virginia, 2005-06
  • John E. Rovensky Fellowship in American Economic and Business History, 2004-05

  • Whitebox Advisors Behavioral Finance Fellowship, Yale School of Management, 2004-05

< back