2/13: Edward Balleisen on Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff

Economic duplicity has bedeviled American markets from the founding of the Republic. Historian Edward Balleisen explores the enduring connections between capitalist innovation and fraud, as well as the vexed efforts to curb the worst business deceptions by private organizations and state agencies. Placing recent fraud scandals in long-term context, he shows that we rely solely on a policy of caveat emptor at our peril; and that a mixture of public education, sensible disclosure rules, and targeted enforcement campaigns can contain the problem of business fraud.

Edward J. Balleisen is Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University.  His most recent book is: Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff (2017).  Other volumes include Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America (2001); Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation (2009, co-edited with David Moss); and a three volume research collection, Business Regulation (2015).  He has won three teaching prizes at Duke, and is a leader in the national conversation on reconfiguring doctoral education in the humanities.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.