Dr Edmond Smith

Presidential Fellow (Academic)

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I joined Manchester in 2018 as a Presidential Fellow in Economic Cultures. I am interested in histories of globalisation and capitalism and have conducted research in Africa, America, Asia and Europe, working on topics ranging from the emergence of transnational corporations to the archaeology of colonisation. My first book Merchants: The Community that Shaped England’s Trade and Empire is published with Yale University Press. 

My research seeks to uncover the origins of our globalised world. Instead of focusing on states, empires, or corporations, I peek under the hood of these seemingly monolithic, homogenous entities to find the individuals who were the beating heart of this process. Whether these are the rock-salt entrepreneurs of Ghana, Gujarati brokers haggling over silk in Surat, or English merchants planning to colonise the Arctic with Lapp settlers, each has their own stories to tell – and all contributed to the creation of the global, connected world we know today. Focusing on people – their everyday activities and values and their experiences of contact with the outside world – helps us to understand the cultural conditions of global capitalism in a much more nuanced way. Rather than finding a euro-centric, rigid model imposed on the world from boardrooms in Amsterdam and London, we instead discover that the origins of global capitalism are de-centred, open to the roles played by men and women from all walks of life across the world. We see economics not only as trade-flows and stock markets but also as the day-to-day activities of individuals, families and communities.

My work has published in numerous academic journals and books, and I have received prestigious funding awards from the British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council, among others, that has allowed me to undertake cutting edge research into histories of capitalism and globalisation. I have also been elected to serve as Council Member for the Hakluyt Society (2017-21) and the Economic History Society (2021-present).

In addition to my academic work, I have undertaken research in the contemporary finance sector, working with some of the world’s most venerable institutions and most exciting start-ups. I maintain strong relationships with finance and policy sectors, and am currently working with the New Economics Foundation and The Entrepreneurs Network to explore how capitalism and globalisation affect the world today.


Listen to me discuss my research on BBC HistoryEXTRA here.


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