Department of History

Seth E. Rockman

Associate Professor of History, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Sharpe House 220
Areas of Expertise United States, Atlantic World
Office Hours Wednesdays 1:30-4:00pm and by appointment


Seth Rockman is a historian of the United States focusing on the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War. His research unfolds at the intersection of slavery studies, labor history, material culture studies, and the history of capitalism. Rockman’s earlier work— the award-winning Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (2009) and the co-edited volume Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development (2016)— sought to better understand the relationship of slavery and capitalism in the American past. In December 2022, Rockman shared his research findings with the US House Financial Services Committee in live testimony. Rockman’s new book, Plantation Goods: A Material History of American Slavery, will be published by University of Chicago Press in Fall 2024. 

Rockman spent the 2022-2023 academic year in residence at re:work, a Berlin-based research institute on global labor history that supported his publication Der alte und der neue Materialismus in der Geschichte der Sklaverei (2022). He has recently sought to foster an exchange between labor history and the history of science: first as a Gordon Cain Fellow at the Science History Institute and one of the co-organizers of the 2022 conference, Let’s Get to Work: Bringing Labor History and the History of Science Together; and then as the author/co-editor of several publications in the journals IsisHistory of Science, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History

At Brown, Rockman sits on the faculty advisory board of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and published “The Dialectics of Racism and Repair” in the 2021 re-issue of the university’s influential Slavery & Justice Report. He also serves on the faculty advisory board of the William R. Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance, and also participates in the Stone Inequality Initiative. Rockman has held elected positions in faculty governance and also regularly teaches a course on slavery and capitalism for the IE-Brown Executive MBA program

Rockman welcomes inquires regarding Brown’s doctoral program from students focused on the United States from the era of the American Revolution to the Civil War. Prospective students interested in Atlantic Slavery and the history of capitalism more broadly should not hesitate to contact Rockman by email. Rockman’s recent advisees have pursued dissertations on the politics of money in Jacksonian America; the hemispheric history of the American consular corps; New England women’s communities of care during the Revolutionary War; and the role of the New Bedford whalefishery in the rise of the American administrative state. Recent graduates include Ann Daly, Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Alicia Maggard, Rebecca Marisseau, and Simeon Simeonov.

Rockman’s teaching includes a graduate seminar on the global history of capitalism (which published an extensive bibliography in 2021), as well as undergraduate lecture courses (co-taught with Professor Philip Gould of the English Department) on the American Revolution and the Early Republic United States. Rockman offers such upper-division seminars as “Early American Money," as well as “The Problem of Class in Early American History.” He also teaches “A Textile History of Atlantic Slavery” as a seminar for students in their first semester of college.