• Faculty

  • Julia Ott

    Associate Professor of History


    Office Location
    G - 80 Fifth Avenue

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    Julia Ott


    The past offers tools for understanding our present circumstances. And, I believe, history can guide us in navigating the future, for making the choices that are necessary to create a fair and sustainable economy for all.

    During my lifetime, American political culture has been distinguished by a pervasive belief that individual freedom is best guaranteed by freedom of the market. Over the course of the last forty years, the collective solutions that once nurtured the American middle class – including labor unions along with government and corporate-sponsored social provisions – drew increasing criticism for allegedly impeding the dynamic individualism of American capitalism. Government withdrew from social protection and provision. De-regulation and privatization swept across the domestic policy landscape. As a result, inequality increased.  And the well-being of American households was yoked ever more tightly to increasingly unregulated financial markets. These ideas, policies, and outcomes -- often labeled “neoliberalism” by scholars -- account, in part, for both the insurgency of Bernie Sanders and the shocking victory of Donald Trump.

    As a scholar, teacher, editor, and public intellectual, I aim to advance critical histories of capitalism. I engage non-academic audiences as a member of Scholar’s Committee for the New York at its Core exhibit at the City Museum of New York, a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, a consultant to documentary films, and by writing for publications like Public BooksThe NationDissent, and Public Seminar.  My media appearances include BBCNPRC-SPAN, and PBS, while my work has been featured in outlets including The New York TimesBusiness World, New DawnChinese National TelevisionRadio OpenSourceMajority Report with Sam SederBloomberg, and Who Makes the Cents?

    One of my favorite aspects of academic life is lending my support to other scholars and writers. I am fortunate to do as a graduate student advisor and as an Editor of Public Seminara member of the Editorial Board of Dissent, and a Co-Editor of the book series Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism published by Columbia University Press.

    Degrees Held

    BA, Princeton University, 1997

    PhD, Yale University, 2007

    Recent Publications


    Weath Over Work: The Origins of Venture Capital, The Return of Inequality, and the Decline of Innovation (manuscript-in-progress)

    When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2011): winner of the Vincent DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era


    Selected Other Writings

    “Tax Preference as White Privilege in the United States, 1921-1965,” Capitalism and History vol 1, no. 1 (Summer 2019)

    “What Was The Great Bull Market?: Value, Valuation, and Financial History” in ed. Sven Beckert and Christine Desan, The New History of American Capitalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018)

     “Words Can’t Do the Work For Us," Dissent (January 22, 2018)

    Clinton Democrats Are Wrong.  It’s Not Wall Street that Needs to Be Unleashed – It’s Government,” Washington Post (October 31, 2017)

    How Tax Policy Created the 1%,” Dissent (April 18, 2017)

    Occupied Wall Street Journal,” Museum of the City of New York, November 2016

    "Curious Beginnings of the Capital Gains Tax Preference” Fordham Law Review vol. 84 (2016), p.101-120, co-authored with Ajay Mehrotra

    Capitalism Studies: A Manifesto,” Public Seminar, April 17, 2014

    Slaves: The Capital That Made Capital,” Public Seminar, April 9, 2014

    "Solving the ‘Debt Question’,” New Labor Forum vol. 22 no. 1 (Spring 2013), co-authored with Louis Hyman

    “‘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.

    Research Interests

    History of capitalism, 20th century American history, financial history, labor history, neoliberalism, conservatism, consumer culture, women's and gender history, race and capitalism

    Awards And Honors

    Member, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, NJ, 2019-2020

    Faculty Research Grant, Provost's Office, The New School, 2019-2020

    Civic Liberal Arts Grant, Eugene Lang College for the Liberal Arts at the New School, 2018

    Faculty Opportunity Award, Eugene Lang College for the Liberal Arts, The New School, 2017

    Visiting Scholar, Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University, 2014-2016

    Grant Recipient, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on American Material Culture, Bard Graduate Center, July 2013

    Vincent DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 2013

    Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, New York City, 2009-2010

    Interdisciplinary Seminar Grant, Tobin Project, 2009-2010



    Current Courses

    Independent Senior Project

    Independent Study


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