Anders Bright


Ph.D. Candidate

Anders Bright is a sixth year PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. His work  bridges the gap between economic history and cultural histories of capitalism, and argues that the story of American financial development cannot be understood without attending to the social and cultural shifts that made this development possible. His work has been supported by the American Antiquarian Society, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the International Center for Jefferson Studies, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the New York Historical Society, among others. 

His dissertation, Luck’s Republic: Lotteries, Class, and Finance in Early America, tells the history of American lotteries from the colonial period through the Civil War. It denaturalizes assumptions about the inevitability of the emergence of early American finance and its attendant institutions, and places class at the center of the story it tells. In particular, it highlights a tension at the center of the development of early American capitalism: how was the financially facilitated expansion of wealth inequality both possible and palatable within a purportedly egalitarian society? The history of lotteries helps to untangle this contradiction, and in doing so, reconciles the different stories told by financial and social historians about the emergence of American capitalism. Lotteries succeeded— as did American capitalism more generally— by exploiting the gulf between the egalitarian promises associated with economic expansion and market integration, and the precarious economic conditions many Americans found themselves in. Everyone stood equal before fortune’s merry wheel, as they purportedly did before the market. If the majority remained losers, at least they were free to take the chance.


Anders received a B.A. in 2018 from Johns Hopkins University, where he studied History and Political Science.