Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences (2020–22)
PhD'20 (early modern European history) University of Chicago

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Social Science Research Building, room 523 – Office

Research Interests

Old regime France; European imperialism; political economy and the history of capitalism; the Enlightenment; intellectual history; environmental history


Capital and Critique: The Commercial Imperialism of Old Regime France


Oliver is a historian of old regime France and its colonial empire. His research explores the relationship between Enlightenment social theory and the global history of capitalism. His first book manuscript, Capital and Critique: The Commercial Imperialism of Old Regime France, is an intellectual history of France’s eighteenth-century global economy. It traces some of the central categories of eighteenth-century intellectual discourse and public debate in France—concepts of society, the entrepreneur, civilization, and racial hierarchy—back to their material, environmental origins in the merchant houses, trading posts, ports, and plantations of the old regime’s global empire. “Commercial imperialism,” the book argues, was the product of related but contradictory economic and intellectual phenomena: the growth of merchant capital, and the potentially critical discussion of commercial affairs in the public sphere. Organized around case studies of commodities—company shares, coffee, cochineal, gum, gunpowder, sugar, and indigo—the book tracks commercial imperialism across the Indian Ocean, the Levant, Cadiz, Oaxaca, Senegambia, French Guiana, Sainte-Domingue, and the metropole, from the “golden age” of commerce in the early eighteenth century to the Age of Revolutions.

Oliver teaches classes on the history of capitalism, environmental history, and the history of ideas. He is also a lecturer in the European Civilization core sequence.


"The Lives of Merchant Capital: The Frères Monneron and the Legacy of Old Regime Empire," French History craa037 (July 2020).


—Co-founds Intellectual History Workshop
—Awarded 2016–17 SSRC International Research Fellowship for study in France
Discusses archival finds in the Archives Nationales in Paris