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Brian Luskey

Director of Graduate Studies
Associate Professor


202D Woodburn Hall
P.O. Box 6303
Morgantown, WV 26506-6303
Phone: 304.293.9328
Fax: 304.293.3616

Teaching Fields:

  • Early America to 1900
  • Social and cultural history
  • Capitalism
  • Cities


  • Ph.D. Emory University, 2004
  • M.A. Emory University, 2000
  • A.B., Davidson College, 1997

Research Interests

I study the cultural history of capitalism in the nineteenth-century United States and welcome applications from graduate students interested in working in this field. My work focuses on Americans “in the middle,” a phrase meant to evoke both fluid notions of social position and identity as well as the emergence of a variety of brokers and middlemen who rose to prominence in the economy during this period. My subjects—clerks, employment agents called “intelligence office” keepers, soldiers, household mistresses, and slave traders among them—negotiated the commercializing and industrializing economy’s promise and peril, defined who they were through the process of market making and engagement, and sparked debates about the cultural meanings of their economic practices and about capitalist transformation as a whole.

Grad Students Advised


. M.A.:

  • Beth Conant-Lambert

Courses Offered

HIST 152: Survey of American History to 1865
HIST 358/558: The Age of Panics, 1819-1893
HIST 393/593: The Gangs of New York
HIST 453: Civil War and Reconstruction
HIST 484: Historical Research Capstone: Abraham Lincoln’s America
HIST 757: Graduate Readings in U. S. History, 1776-1900
HIST 758: Graduate Research Seminar in American History, 1776-1900


Soldiers and Servants of Fortune: Free Labor’s Frauds in Civil War America, (Under advance contract, University of North Carolina Press, writing in progress)

Capitalism by Gaslight: Illuminating the Economy of Nineteenth-Century America, co-edited with Wendy A. Woloson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015)

On the Make: Clerks and the Quest for Capital in Nineteenth-Century America, (New York University Press, 2010).

Journal Articles, Book Chapters, and Essays
“Houses Divided: The Cultural Economy of Emancipation in the Civil War North,” Journal of the Early Republic 36 (Winter 2016), forthcoming.

“Chasing Capital in Hard Times: Monroe Edwards, Slavery, and Sovereignty in the Panicked Atlantic,” Early American Studies 14 (Winter 2016): 82-113.

“Men Is Cheap,” Disunion (Blog of the New York Times), February 4, 2015.

“Special Marts: Intelligence Offices, Labor Commodification, and Emancipation in Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of the Civil War Era 3 (September 2013): 360-391.

“The Ambiguities of Class in Antebellum America,” in Sean P. Adams, ed., A Companion to the Era of Andrew Jackson (Blackwell Publishing, 2013): 194-212

“Dishonest Clerks and the Culture of Capitalism: What’s Old Is New Again,” Ask the Author Roundtable, Common-place (July 2010).

“Jumping Counters in White Collars: Manliness, Respectability, and Work in the Antebellum City,” Journal of the Early Republic 26 (Summer 2006): 173-219.

“What Is My Prospects?: The Contours of Mercantile Apprenticeship, Ambition, and Advancement in the Early American Economy,” Business History Review 78 (Winter 2004): 665-702. (Winner of the 2004 Newcomen-Harvard Special Award in Business History)

“Riot and Respectability: The Shifting Terrain of Class Language and Status in Baltimore during the Great Strike of 1877,” American Nineteenth Century History 4 (Fall 2003): 61-96.

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