Summer Talks - Connected Histories of Capitalism

Join us for our 2023 Lecture Series Summer Talks on Connected Histories of Capitalism at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) and on Zoom in June and September!

Programme and links for registration

Jointly organised by CAPASIA with the the European Research Council project ECOINT – Twentieth-Century International Economic Thinking and the Complex History of Globalization and the EUI Conversations on the New Histories of Capitalism Working Group


Where is Asia in the History of Early Modern Capitalism?

Giorgio Riello (European University Institute) and Michael O’Sullivan (CAPASIA project) presents Where is Asia in the History of Early Modern Capitalism?

Time and place: May 15, 2023 2:15 PM–5:30 PM, Håndbiblioteket 534, Niels Treschows Hus, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo

Where is Asia in the History of Early Modern Capitalism? - Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History
Giorgio Riello (European University Institute) and Michael O’Sullivan (CAPASIA project) presents Where is Asia in the History of Early Modern Capitalism?

This talk argues that early modern Asia is fast gaining greater consideration in histories and conceptualizations of capitalism on account of two developments: 1) a new emphasis on land as a natural resource for production; and 2) a view of Asian labour as a reservoir of human capital instead of simply an unskilled, coerced or enslaved population.

In making this argument, we disentangle the question of capitalism from growth and account for disparities within Asia. We also reckon with the reluctance of historians of Asia to embrace the term capitalism. Indeed, since the late 1990s, economic historians of Asia have been united in criticizing the application to Asia of paradigms formulated in reference to early modern European capitalism. Reluctant though many historians of early modern Asia may be to endorse capitalism as an analytical concept, we believe that this creates an imbalance that continues to anchor scholarship to Euro-centred conceptualisations. The danger in this is twofold: in roundabout fashion it enshrines European exceptionalism, and it marginalizes the substantial advances in the study of economic life in early modern Asia over the past generation.


Giorgio Riello is Professor of Early Modern Global History at the European University Institute and the Principal Investigator of the ERC Advanced Project CAPASIA. He is also Professor of Global History and Culture at Warwick University.

Michael O’Sullivan is Senior Research Fellow for the CAPASIA project. Before his current position, he held fellowships at Harvard and Yale universities. His book on the histories of Gujarati Muslim commercial castes will be published by Harvard University Press later this year.

Opening Lecture of the CAPASIA project

Speaker: Tirthankar Roy (London School of Economics)

Time and place: 27 April 2023, 17.00 CEST, Hybrid (Villa Salviati, Sala del Consiglio, and via Zoom)


The talk confronts an anomaly in the history of European colonialism in Asia and Africa, namely that prior to the eighteenth century, European power was negligible compared to interior states. Typically, historians of colonialism stress either the pursuit of political opportunism or the combatting of political threats to explain how European seaborne power became terrestrial. Drawing on examples from South and Southeast Asia, this talk instead asks whether the control of the sea sustained campaigns inland. Evidence suggests three locational advantages were prerequisites: a stable supply of food and water, relatively easy transportation access into the interior, and agglomeration prospects.

16 March 2022

14:30 — 16:00

CAPASIA Lecture at the Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico, Trento

On 16 March 2022, Professor Giorgio Riello (CAPASIA Principal Investigator) and Michael O'Sullivan (Senior Research Fellow) traveled to the Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento to deliver a lecture on the CAPASIA project. For further information see the link below:

CAPASIA: The Asian origins of global capitalism: European factories in the Indian Ocean, 1500-1800
In this presentation, Giorgio Riello (Principal Investigator) and Michael O’Sullivan (Senior Research Fellow) introduce CAPASIA, an ERC-funded research project based at the European University Institute in Florence.