Undergraduate Seminar on the History of U.S. Philanthropy: 


The Public Role of Private Wealth

HON H220, Fall 2018

Professor Maribel Morey


At first glance, nonprofit organizations in the United States—from the Sierra Club and the American Red Cross to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—might seem to be rather uncontroversial, benevolent actors serving the public good. As nonprofits, they are neither representing the profit-seeking motives of the private sector nor the perceived inefficiencies of the public sector. From this perspective, nonprofit organizations might appear to incorporate the best of both the private and public realms. And yet, as we will discuss in this seminar, Americans long have debated the democratic value of these organizations. After all, U.S. nonprofits—much like governments at the local, state, and federal levels in the U.S.—aim to shape public policies. Unlike their public analogues, however, these private institutions are largely unaccountable to their publics. The U.S. public does not elect the staff and trustees at these organizations nor does it have access to these organizations’ decision-making practices: forms of public accountability that Americans expect from their public institutions.

Adding yet another layer of stress to the public role of these private organizations in democratic life, Americans long have questioned if some of these nonprofits—particularly wealthy philanthropies such as the Gates, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations—overpower individual citizens’ presumed equal right to shape public life.  

Taking a historical lens to the complex role of these wealthy philanthropic organizations in the U.S. since their genesis in the Gilded Age, we will continuously return to the central question of this seminar: Have elite philanthropies—and nonprofits more generally—furthered or undermined democratic life in the United States throughout the past centuries?

Required Books: 

Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth and Other Writings (NY: Penguin Random House, 2006).

John Ehrenberg, Civil Society: The Critical History of an Idea (NYU Press, 1999).

Philanthropy in Democratic Societies (eds. Rob Reich, Chiara Cordelli, and Lucy Bernholz) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (New York: Vintage Books, 1998).

Robert E. Kohler, Partners in Science: Foundations and Natural Scientists 1900-1945 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1991).

Alice O’Connor, Social Science for What? Philanthropy and the Social Question in a World Turned Rightside Up (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2007).

Karen Ferguson, Top Down: The Ford Foundation, Black Power, and the Reinvention of Racial Liberalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

Megan Tompkins-Stange, Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2016).

[Note: I have posted the full syllabus for this course on HistPhil]


Graduate Seminar on the History of U.S. Philanthropy


History of U.S. Philanthropy

HIST 4900/6900, Forthcoming Semester

Professor Maribel Morey


In 1996, nineteenth-century U.S. historian Sven Beckert proposed an undergraduate seminar on the history of American capitalism at Harvard. Seventeen years later in 2013, The New York Times announced that the “events of 2008 and their long aftermath have given urgency to the scholarly realization that it really is the economy, stupid.” Today, the history of capitalism has become a trending focus in history departments across the country, with course offerings and completed dissertations on the topic. U.S. historians’ contemporary excitement about capitalism as an analytic lens for understanding change-over-time within the United States, though, co-exists with another movement within the field: to transnationalize, or rather, to globalize U.S. history. Sure enough, U.S. historians of capitalism have blended these two movements to write transnational, global histories of capitalism.

However, if we, as U.S. historians, want to understand how and why capitalism functions the way it does within and outside the United States and want to understand the role of the United States in a global community throughout the past centuries, then we also need to take into account U.S. philanthropy. This is because philanthropy plays the role of addressing and also legitimizing the inequalities produced by capitalism, and it plays this role both domestically and globally.

In this graduate seminar, we will examine the complex role of U.S. philanthropy in American democratic life and on the global stage. In doing so, we not only will be enriching two contemporary trends in the profession, but continuing an intellectual tradition developed nearly forty years ago by University of Chicago historians Barry D. Karl and Stanley N. Katz.

We will begin the seminar by analyzing how philanthropists, philanthropic managers, national policymakers, and the American public perceived the role of U.S. philanthropy in the United States and globally throughout the long twentieth century. After discussing key secondary works in the field, we will analyze Andrew Carnegie’s distinction between charity and philanthropy and the role he prescribed to philanthropy in a capitalist society. Moving forward chronologically into the 1920s and 1930s United States, we will analyze how Americans discussed the appropriate forms of philanthropy-government collaborations; the ideal relationships among foundations; and, the power of philanthropies to shape the construction of authoritative knowledge in the natural and social sciences. Next, we will read the various Congressional investigations of these organizations throughout the twentieth century as a means of understanding Americans’ changing anxieties about philanthropy and U.S. democracy. We then will discuss the role of U.S. foundations on a global stage during the twentieth century and analyze these organizations’ shifting identities as benevolent givers; empire by another name; and, apologists for global capitalism. We will conclude the course with a general reflection on the place of U.S. philanthropy in the global community during the long twentieth century and today.

[Note: I have posted the full syllabus for this course on HistPhil]


Undergraduate, 20th Century U.S. Survey Course:


History of the United States

HIST 1020, Fall 2018

Professor Maribel Morey

Course Description: The course will begin with an overview of key moments in nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States history. After the first three weeks, the class will then focus on bringing historical context to today’s most pressing national conversations, from #SaveDACA and the #BlackLivesMatter movement to the #AltRight, #TimesUp, #MeToo, and #NeverAgain movements. In doing so, the course aims both to empower students with knowledge of critical moments in the U.S. past and to inspire them to see the present-day value of historical analysis. 

Course Goals and Student Learning Objectives: During the course, students will be gaining key skills that will help them develop into informed citizens of the U.S. polity and competent workers in the U.S. economy: two dual goals that U.S. institutions of higher education such as our own strive for their students. Such key skills in critical and creative thinking include: the capacity to read, understand, and communicate main arguments and data in the assigned texts, and the ability to relate assigned readings to each other. Students also will be encouraged to develop the necessary competency and confidence to lead group discussions and to present (in a concise and direct way) their analyses of these readings. Students will develop these critical and creative thinking skills both through written paper assignments and class conversations.

Course Methodology: Debating the value of a survey course, U.S. historians long have questioned what it means to introduce students to the study of U.S. history: Should these introductory courses cover large spans of time in order to educate students about key political moments of the U.S. national past? Or should they sacrifice some of their expansive time periods in order to introduce students to more layered understandings of these national moments (from local, regional, and global perspectives)? Even more, should the course also make some effort to show students what it means to think as historians? Looking to recruit undergraduates to major in history, other scholars furthermore argue that the survey course should underscore the present-day value of studying history.

Responding to these varying expectations, this survey course dedicates the first three weeks of class to strengthening students’ knowledge of key moments in the U.S. past (“covering” significant U.S. political moments in the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries). And yet, with an eye toward the latter goals (introducing students to historical thinking and to the value of historical study), we will spend the majority of the course reading and analyzing historical monographs bringing historical context to today’s most pressing national debates.

Required Books:

Paul S. Boyer, American History: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Natalia Molina, How Race is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2014).

Christopher J. Lebron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016).

Katherine Turk, Equality on Trial: Gender and Rights in the Modern American Workplace (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment (San Francisco, CA: City Lights Publishers, 2018).


Undergraduate/Graduate Seminar in the U.S. Social Sciences: 


History of the U.S. Social Sciences

HIST 4940/6940, Spring 2015

Professor Maribel Morey

How do we write the history of social science? There are problems even with the name. In English alone, “sciences of man,” “moral sciences,” “moral and political sciences,” “behavioral sciences,” and “human sciences” have been among its many predecessors and competitors. Their proliferation reflects the unsettled nature of this broad subject matter. All are capable of giving offense, both by exclusion and inclusion. Many have long and contradictory histories.

– Theodore M. Porter and Dorothy Ross, “Introduction: Writing the History of Social Science,” in Cambridge History of Science: The Modern Social Sciences, Vol. 7, ed. Theodore M. Porter and Dorothy Ross 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).


Course Description:

In this seminar for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, we will survey the history of the U.S. social sciences. Beginning with a general presentation of this field of historical research, the course delves into a survey of the social sciences in the U.S. during the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries. In particular, we will investigate the history of the following fields: economics, sociology, political science, psychology, and anthropology. Throughout our discussions, we will consider how nineteenth-century U.S. scholars imagined a science of the social and how these five social science disciplines developed in the U.S. throughout the late nineteenth- and twentieth centuries. Moreover, we will analyze how these U.S. disciplines were impacted by intellectual trends in Europe. In the process, we will discuss the works of key U.S. and European social scientists such as: Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer, William Graham Sumner, John Dewey, Dorothy and W.I. Thomas, Bronislaw Malinowski, Alva and Gunnar Myrdal, Antonio Gramsci, Theodor Adorno, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, David Easton, and Clifford Geertz. We will question the rigidity and porosity of the U.S. social sciences and, more specifically, of their disciplinary boundaries during these two centuries. 

Required Books:

Roger E. Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine, eds., The History of the Social Sciences since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). .

Christian Fleck, A Transatlantic History of the Social Sciences: Robber Barons, the Third Reich and the Invention of Empirical Social Research (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011). 

Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 


Undergraduate, 2-semester U.S. Legal History Sequence:


United States Legal History to 1890

HIST 3280, Fall 2014

Professor Maribel Morey

Course Description:

This is the first of two courses intended as an introduction to U.S. legal history. This course begins with a general theoretical background to the study of legal history. It then progresses into a survey of the U.S. legal system from colonial times to the 1890s. Following in general chronological order, we will address questions about the legal realm in areas ranging widely across the history of American life. Our subjects will include the laws on labor and slavery in the British North American colonies, the English common law tradition in the Early Republic, married women’s coverture, the advent of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the role of the Court in an expanding and industrializing nation. Throughout our discussions this semester, we will consider how the legal system both served to justify society’s status quo and functioned as a vehicle for societal change in the British North American colonies and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States.  

Required Books:

Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law (Simon & Schuster, 3rd ed. 2005) [hereafter cited as History of American Law].

Kermit L. Hall, Paul Finkelman, and James W. Ely, Jr., American Legal History: Cases and Materials (Oxford University Press, 4th ed. 2011) [hereafter cited as Cases and Materials]. 


United States Legal History since 1890

HIST 3290, Spring 2019

Professor Maribel Morey 

Course Description:

This is the second of two undergraduate courses intended as an introduction to U.S. legal history. During the first semester, students examined how individuals in the British North American colonies and in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States experienced law in their everyday lives. Throughout our discussions last semester, we considered how the legal system both served to justify society’s status quo and functioned as a vehicle for societal change in the British North American colonies and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States. During this second semester, students enter the halls of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century courthouses, law firms, legal advocacy clinics, and law schools to see how U.S. judges, practicing lawyers, and law professors discussed the role that law should play in Americans’ lives.

During the first week of this course, students will be introduced to the general responsibilities of U.S. judges, practicing lawyers, and law professors and to the dynamics between these groups. After this basic grounding on the legal community, students will survey major trends in the ways that these individuals argued about the appropriate role of law in American society during the late nineteenth- and twentieth centuries. This course will cover major intellectual fashions and their critiques within this community, including: classical legal thought, legal realism, legal process, legal liberalism, law & society, feminist jurisprudence, critical race theory, textualism, and law & economics. It also will highlight the intellectual leadership of figures such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Roscoe Pound, Benjamin Cardozo, Christopher Columbus Langdell, Karl Llewellyn, Jerome Frank, Herbert Wechsler, Learned Hand, James Landis, Thurgood Marshall, Willard Hurst, Lawrence Friedman, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Carol Gilligan, Catherine MacKinnon, Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia J. Williams, Antonin Scalia, Ronald Coase, Duncan Kennedy, and Ronald Dworkin.  

Required Books:

Morton J. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 1870-1960: The Crisis of Legal Orthodoxy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Laura Kalman, The Strange Career of Legal Liberalism (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1996).

Kenneth Mack, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012).

Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).