Julia Ott is associate professor of history at The New School. As a scholar, teacher, editor, and public intellectual, she seeks to advance critical histories of capitalism. At The New School, she serves as the Co-Director of the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies. Ott engages non-academic audiences as a member of Scholar’s Committee for the New York at its Core exhibit at the City Museum of New York. She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, a consultant to documentary films, and writes for outlets like Public Books, The Nation, Dissent, and Public Seminar. Ott’s media appearances include BBC, NPR, and C-SPAN, while her work has been featured in The New York Times, Chinese National Television, Radio OpenSource, Majority Report with Sam Seder, and Who Makes the Cents? One of Ott’s favorite aspects of academic life is lending her support to other scholars and writers. She serves as Senior Editor of Public Seminar and as a Co-Editor of the book series “Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism” published by Columbia University Press. Ott was recently awarded membership to the 2020 class of New American Fellows where she is one of fifteen scholars dedicated to enhancing conversations around the most pressing issues of the times.
When Wall Street Met Main Street: the Quest for an Investors’ Democracy and the Emergence of the American Retail Investor, 1900-1930
Given the depths of populist and progressive hostility toward Wall Street in the decades before the World War I, few could have predicted that the nation’s stock and bond markets would emerge as icons of a new era of permanent prosperity, even before the late 1920s stock market boom. Roughly 30 million Americans acquired federal war bonds, while the number of corporate shareholders likely increased fivefold in the 1920s. Ott’s dissertation explained these transformations in political attitude and social practice by relating an intertwined history of investors and investorism. By analyzing the marketing of stocks and bonds by the federal government, corporations, and the financial industry, as well as new investorist theories of political economy formulated by a range of economic thinkers, her study revealed the early twentieth century origins of the idea of an ownership society in American political culture. Without the ideological validation considered in this dissertation, the United States would have never developed its first broad, national, impersonal market for financial securities in the 1920s.