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About Me

My research is on the history of fraud in nineteenth-century New York City. I use quantitative and qualitative methods to demonstrate that fraud was not incidental to the rise of American capitalism. In fact, it was central to it. Americans of all classes committed fraud in equal numbers, and there was enough fraud to influence the city's GDP. Yet the profits of fraud generally went to those who already benefitted from the inequalities of emerging capitalism. Deception was fundamental to how profits were made, and the difference between legal and illegal practices was often murky. What separated fraud from sharp dealing was that fraud violated culturally and legally defined standards of business practices, and those practices shifted considerably over time. Fraud was a major topic in American popular culture, and business ethics were debated in newspapers, novels, sermons, advice books, biographies, cartoons, magazines, and other places.

I am an open-source software advocate. I try to run as much free and open-source software as I can. I am an avid Linux user, a free and open-source operating system, and I think that more people in the humanities should use Linux and other open-source software instead of proprietary applications like Microsoft Word, SPSS, and EndNote. Open source represents a different way of doing things than has generally been the case in American industry: businesses can work on a common project while seeking their own profits. Many companies profit from Linux, yet no one actually owns Linux. Indeed, Linux is the largest collaborative software project in the world, and it changes more rapidly than any other program. But Linux is free to use and free to modify. I also use R, an open-source statistics and data visualization platform, and Zotero, an open-source bibliographic application in my intellectual work.