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The Self-Perception of Early Modern 'Capitalists'

A conference at the Clark Library organized by Margaret C. Jacob, UCLA, and Catherine Secretan, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Friday, January 19, 2007
9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Sponsored by the UCLA Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and co-sponsored by the Netherlands Consulate General of Los Angeles.

The term “capitalist” appears only late in the eighteenth century as a way of describing the speculating or commercial classes. Yet money was ubiquitous in early modern Europe. The goal of this conference is to examine how people who sought to make it, struggled to acquire and keep it, viewed themselves. They operated in cities great and small, in capitals of trade such as Venice, Hamburg, Antwerp, London, Amsterdam, Lyon, and Marseille, but also in Leeds and The Hague. How did they explain themselves; how did they understand their worldly activities? How did they cope with a culture that had for so long opposed material wealth to spiritual possessions, earthly pursuits to the spiritual realm? This sort of “self perception” can be read directly from the writings of merchants themselves (through their memories, letters, addresses) and also it can be found in legitimating discourses employed by contemporaries interested in valorizing trade. Our work has been informed by Weber on Protestantism and capitalism, yet we propose to access a new vocabulary, based on the sources and taking into account also Catholic and Sephardic merchants.

Papers: Conference papers will be posted to the Center’s website by January 8, and will remain accessible until February 5.

Registration Deadline: January 8, 2007

Registration Fees: $25 per person; UC faculty & staff, students with ID: no charge* *Students should enclose a photocopy of their current ID with the registration form. Fees are not refundable and apply to full or partial attendance.

Lunch and other refreshments are provided to all registrants.

To register, please visit

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