My scholarship lies at the intersection of international relations, history, and political theory. Specifically, I am interested in the influence that ideas--and, more specifically, the intellectuals who wield ideas--can have on foreign policy. Drawing upon my previous training, I approach this agenda with the perspective and tools of an historian.

This research has generated several articles; and I am now working to complete a book project.

Shocking Intellectual Austerity: The Role of Ideas in the Demise of The Gold Standard in Britain

: Britain's 1931 suspension of the gold standard remains one of the most shocking policy shifts of the past century. Conventional explanations focus on changing international conditions alongside the rise of social democracy: when Britons refused to shoulder the increasing costs of defending the exchange rate, the Bank of England was “forced” to abandon the gold standard. This article refocuses attention on policy-makers’ causal ideas at critical moments. Drawing on numerous primary sources held in several archives, it reveals a cleavage within the Bank over the appropriate response to the flight from sterling. Following the nervous collapse of the Bank's governor, the deputy governor shifted the Bank's strategy from making defensive rate hikes to pursuing fiscal austerity. He then “temporarily” suspended gold convertibility in a gambit to forestall the election he (incorrectly) assumed would unseat the gold standard's supporters in Parliament. When the unintended experiment with a managed float proved successful, Keynes was able to persuade policy-makers to embrace the new exchange rate regime.

International Organization 70(1): 175-207 (2016)

Article | Extended Citations | Presentation

Before Hegemony: Adam Smith, American Independence, and the Origins of the First Era of Globalization

: While extensive scholarship has shown that it is possible to maintain global economic openness after hegemony, economic liberalization is still thought to be unlikely prior to hegemonic ascent. This assumption is based on the conventional narrative that Great Britain “began lowering her trade barriers in the 1820s,” as it began its hegemonic ascent. This article shows that Britain began pursuing an open trading structure in the 1780s—in precisely the multipolar world that hegemonic stability theorists claimed would be least likely to initiate the shift. This change in commercial strategy depended crucially on the intellectual conversion of a key policymaker—the Earl of Shelburne—from mercantilist foreign economic policy to Adam Smith’s revolutionary laissez-faire liberalism. Using the case of “the world’s most important trading state” in the nineteenth century, this article highlights the importance of intellectuals—as well as their ideas—in shaping states’ foreign policy strategies. It also provides further evidence of key individuals’ significance and their decisions at “critical junctures.”

International Organization 66(3): 395-428.

Article | Presentation

This Means (Bank) War! Corruption and Credible Commitments in the Collapse of the Second Bank of the United States

: The demise of the US central bank in the 1830s “Bank War” remains one of the most significant shifts in the history of American political and economic development. Traditional accounts frame the bank as the casualty of the inevitable clash of hard-money and soft-money interests and ideologies. This paper re-examines this shift through the lens of modern international relations theory. It argues that this “war,” like so many interstate wars, could have been—and very nearly was—averted. In the months prior to the outbreak of hostilities, the bank’s president (Nicholas Biddle) and the US president (Andrew Jackson) agreed to a set of reforms that both sides preferred to fighting. Jackson, however, came to believe that no amount of reform could curb the bank’s hegemonic ascent. Facing the logic of preventive war, Jackson issued a decisive veto that initiated a “total war.” His triumph in the 1832 election sealed the bank’s fate. This paper thus offers a novel interpretation of this key historical episode; and it demonstrates the value of using international relations theory to understand intrastate political dynamics.

Journal of the History of Economic Thought 37(2): 221-45. (2015)


A Great Transformation: The Decline & Fall of the Gold Standard in Britain.

Drawing on more than 15,000 pages of material collected from several archives over the last decade, this book traces the demise of the international gold standard system from its painful restoration in the 1920s, through its unexpected suspension in 1931, to its incremental replacement in the 1930s. This project offers a radical alternative to our textbook accounts of the interwar “great transformation” and the roots of postwar “embedded liberal” order.

Book manuscript in progress.

Other Work in Progress

  • “The Austerity of 1925: Why the Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat?”
  • “Keynessandra No Longer: JM Keynes, the 1931 Financial Crisis, and the Death of the Gold Standard in Britain.”
  • “Together at the Coalface: When, Why, and How Theorists Influence Policymakers.”
  • “A Return to Mercantilism: The Economic Rationales for Nationalist Economic Policy.”