Jonathan Levy F'08, F'07

Jonathan  Levy
Professor
History
University of Chicago

Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships 2008
Doctoral Candidate
University of Chicago
The Ways of Providence: Capitalism, Risk, and Freedom

“The Ways of Providence” is a history of risk in the United States. Risk is a rich topic of analysis in the social sciences, but not as of yet for the humanities. In the nineteenth century, the ability to foresee, act upon, and be responsible for one’s risks became thoroughly bound up with what it meant to be, or become, a free person. "The Ways of Providence" is a history of how and why various Americans, at multiple social levels, attempted to be masters of their own fates, and of the world around them that sometimes succumbed to, but often foiled, their attempts.

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2007
Doctoral Candidate
History
University of Chicago
The Ways of Providence: Capitalism, Risk, and Freedom

This project is a history of risk in nineteenth-century America. Risk, only a technical term in early nineteenth-century insurance, became something more by the early twentieth century. The ability to foresee, act upon, and be responsible for risks became bound up with what it meant to be, or to become, a free person. At the same time, the increasing socialization of risk engendered a new field of interdependence. Who or what was responsible for future risks—a God, an individual, an insurance company, a government? This narrative is organized around the growth of nineteenth-century insurance and contains three parts: the insurance of commodities, including human chattel, in the early nineteenth century; the insurance of the self mid-century; and the birth of social insurance by the early twentieth century.