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Oliver Cussen Office: Phone: Email Interests:

The history of capitalism, Enlightenment social theory, and environmental histories of empire

Collegiate Assistant Professor


The history of capitalism, Enlightenment social theory, and environmental histories of empire


Oliver Cussen is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. He received his PhD in History from the University of Chicago in 2020. He is an environmental historian of early modern capitalism and empire. His first book manuscript, Colonial Enlightenment and the Limits to Growth, argues that French colonialism in the eighteenth century was a doomed attempt to overcome resource scarcity. The book looks at how colonial projects in places like Réunion and Mauritius, Senegambia, Guiana, and Haiti generated Enlightenment categories of political economy as provisional and insufficient “solutions” to environmental limits, and how they repeatedly generated ecological crisis, and, ultimately, revolution. Oliver’s work has appeared in The Journal of Modern History, French History, and the London Review of Books.


Empire and Enlightenment After John Law: Merchant Capitalism and Political Economy in the French East India Company,” Journal of Modern History, vol. 95, no. 3 (September 2023)

The Lives of Merchant Capital: The Frères Monneron and the Legacy of Old Regime Empire,” French History, vol. 34, issue 3 (September 2020), 294-316. Winner, French History Article Prize, 2020

“Melon, the Compagnie des Indes and the Political Economy of Abundance,” forthcoming in Commerce Versus Conquest: The Political Economy of Jean-François Melon, ed. John Shovlin & Koen Stapelbroek (Routledge), forthcoming

Bourgeois Stew,” London Review of Books, November 16, 2023

Cities of Fire and Smoke,” London Review of Books, March 2, 2023


History of European Civilization, I-III (2021-present)

The Commons: Environment and Economy in Early Modern Europe (Winter 2021)

Capitalism and Revolution in the Atlantic World (Fall 2020)