Jacob Soll, professor of history and accounting at the University of Southern California, explored the historical thinkers, philosophies and practices that inform contemporary capitalism in a public talk on Thursday, Sept. 13.
Titled “Colbertism, Commercial Culture, and the Origins of Modern Capitalism,” the talk was held in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. The event is sponsored by the Colleges’ departments of history, French, political science and economics.
An expert on the history of early modern Europe, Soll has been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Jacques Barzun Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and, in 2011, the MacArthur Fellowship.
In his 2005 book Publishing “The Prince” Soll examines how Machiavelli’s work has popularized and influenced modern political thought. His second book, The Information Master investigates how Louis XIV’s famous finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert fused financial management and library sciences to create one of the first modern information states. With The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations, Soll presents a sweeping history of accounting and politics, drawing on a wealth of examples from over a millennia of human history to reveal how accounting can be used to both build kingdoms, empires and entire civilizations, but also to undermine them. Soll’s forthcoming books include Free Market: The History of a Dream, an analysis of classical philosophy, natural law, history and contemporary economic culture; a history of libraries and Enlightenment; and the first English edition of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s economic writings.
Soll has been a correspondent for the Boston Globe and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Politico, New Republic, PBS, Salon.com and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is currently meeting with political and financial leaders across the globe to promote accounting standards and financial transparency.