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Sean H. Vanatta

Sean H. Vanatta

Lecturer in US Economic and Social History, University of Glasgow
I write about and teach modern American history, with an emphasis on the political economy of finance. I received my Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2018. Before that, I took MA and undergraduate degrees at the University of Georgia.

Before joining the University of Glasgow in September 2020, I taught in the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at New York University and in Princeton University’s Writing Program. I have also held the National Endowment for the Humanities Hagley Postdoctoral Fellowship in Business, Culture, and Society and the John E. Rovensky Fellowship in US Business and Economic History.

I am currently working on several major projects, which collectively address the intersection of democracy, finance, and the regulatory state in modern America.

My book manuscript, Plastic Capitalism: Credit Cards and the Political Economy of Modern America (Yale University Press, forthcoming), reevaluates the rise of finance in the post-World War II United States and, with it, the rise and fall of New Deal economic liberalism. Beginning in the 1950s, the book argues, profit-seeking bankers exploited American federalism to avoid consumer regulations, using credit cards to connect far-flung consumers with volatile, global capital markets, leading to the indebted nation we know today.

With Peter Conti-Brown, I am also writing The Bankers Thumb: A History of Bank Supervision in the United States. The book examines bank supervision--the processes of continuous government oversight of the financial system--from its development in the 1830s to the Covid-19 pandemic. The book argues that official discretion, embodied in the constant choices government officers make among supervisory actions and justifications for acting, has been and should continute to be, the essence of financial oversight.

Finally, as I complete these major book projects, I am also engaging in a number of other ventures. First, I have recently begun to examine how state employee pension plans, through their investment activities, helped reshap private financial markets and public welfare in the postwar United States. With Michael R. Glass, I develop some preliminary findings about New York State in an article forthcoming in Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics. Second, I am deeply interested in financial justice movements, particulalry public banking. I have written, spoken about, and textified in favor of public banking in Maryland, and look forward to engaging with activists interested in these causes here in the UK.

Consumer borrowing was heavily restricted in 1940s to curb inflation – it's time we did it again

Aug 22, 2021 01:06 am UTC| Economy

There has been much talk about a potential inflation surge as countries lift pandemic restrictions and seek to resume normal economic activity. In recent months, US prices have risen more than 5% year-on-year. In the UK,...

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