Research Seminars

For twenty years Hagley’s research seminars have brought innovative works-in-progress essays for wide-ranging discussions on Thursday evenings during the academic year.

Seminars are open to the public and based on a paper that is circulated in advance. Those planning to attend are encouraged to read the paper before coming to the seminar. Copies may be obtained by emailing Carol Lockman at Seminars begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. and take place in the Copeland Room of Hagley’s library building.

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Upcoming Research Seminars

2019 - 2020 Series -- View Series PDF

  • December 12, 2019: David Suisman, Sonic Warfare: Military Music, Labor, and Technology Since the Civil War

    In 2015, the U.S. military spent approximately $435 million on music—nearly three times as much as the entire budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. This paper puts such an investment in historical perspective by examining the character and impact of military music-making in the United States in the last 150 years. With special attention to the ways that music by and for soldiers has enhanced military labor, it analyzes the multiple functions music has had for the military, the varied technologies through which music has been made and heard, and the social implications for using music as an instrument of warfare. Drawing on the sociology of labor, the history of emotions, and extensive archival research, this paper considers soldiers’ experiences as singers, musicians, and audiences to show how music has worked as both a tool of manipulation (of soldiers) and of self-preservation (by soldiers).

  • January 23, 2020: Daniel Wortel-London, Private Growth, Public Costs: Municipal Finance and Reform in New York City, 1877-1913

    Between the 1870s and the 1930s New York City underwent a fiscal crisis approximately every twenty years. This paper examines the causes of and responses to the periodic fiscal crisis of late 19th and early 20th century New York. It argues that Gotham’s public finance policies on behalf of private real estate speculation - underassessing utility franchises, subsidizing speculative real estate development, and accruing debt for questionable public improvements – were major factors behind these crises. It examines how reformers of the period used these crises as an opportunity to present alternate fiscal policies that promised to both enhance state revenue and transform the local political economy. Ultimately, it argues that early 20th century Progressives succeeded in developing a new system of municipal revenue and expenditure that, while more stable than its predecessor, maintained the power of the private real estate and banking sectors within the city.   

  • March 26, 2020: Geoffrey Jones, Unconventional and Esoteric Values and Alternative Capitalism

    This paper explores why unconventional and esoteric philosophical and religious beliefs have sometimes provided the foundation for successful business enterprises over the last two hundred years, and more especially for businesses pursuing goals other than securing returns to shareholders. It will use the examples of leaders influenced by Anthroposophy, Jainism, Mormonism, and process philosophy who developed ventures with shared characteristics including a stakeholder view of capitalism, a systems-wide and holistic view of the role of business in society, a deep embedment in local community, and a broad spirituality which infused a world view.

  • April 23, 2020: Karen Mahar, "The Right Kind of Man”: Masculinity, Identity, and the American Business Executive in the Early Twentieth Century

    In the decades after 1890, as large corporations run by salaried managers became a distinguishing feature of economic life, the term “business executive” joined the American lexicon. But even inside business circles it was unclear how to define “business executive” as an occupational category or what traits predicted an executive’s success. This paper examines efforts to define the new American business executive within business literature and popular discourse between 1890 and 1920. It argues that the slipperiness of the term reflected the weight it carried both as a real job and as a symbol of the new corporate order. It identifies multiple strands of masculinized identity associated with the idealized executive (engineering expertise, elite power, and shop floor fluency), and suggests that the emergence of this category during the height of the eugenics movement encouraged linking business leadership with white hypermasculinity.

  • May 21, 2020: Danya Pilgrim, Modest Dreams & Grand Ambitions: African American Caterers at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

    Location: Copeland Room, Hagley Library.

    Time: 6:30pm.


Past Research Seminars

2014 - 2015 Series -- View Series PDF