Hamilton, Andrew
Interim Associate Dean
Professor, Ethics, Culture, and Society
School of Humanities


Andrew Hamilton received a B.A. in history from Grinnell College and went on to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a Ph.D. in intellectual history with a minor in history of science/medicine. His dissertation was titled “Atlantic Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism: Benjamin Vaughan and the Limits of Free Trade in the Eighteenth Century.” Hamilton’s research has focused on the eighteenth century Atlantic world, with a particular interest in global systems, leading him to work on topics such as the British Empire, the transatlantic slave trade, and the history of capitalism.

In 2014, Hamilton participated in the Reinhart Institute’s Happiness Symposium, presenting a paper entitled “Consumerism and Happiness: The Wealth and Virtue Paradox in Historical Context.” That project sought to explore the development of consumer society in the West and to illuminate the important changes around the concepts of virtue and happiness that were necessary in order for consumption of wealth and consumer goods to be portrayed in a positive light. The western tradition has a long history of apprehension or outright hostility toward impulses that might be considered venal or greedy, and it is really only in the last 200 years or so that such selfish “passions” have been successfully recast to appear innocuous or even conducive to individual and societal happiness. The real turning point came with the Enlightenment innovations around the ideas of virtue and happiness. Through the work of such writers as Adam Smith and David Hume, the notion of virtue was redefined as socially appropriate behavior or politeness in society. And individual happiness, it was argued, could be achieved through attending to one’s self-interest, so long as the accepted norms of social behavior were not transgressed. While work on that project was well-received, it opened up additional lines of inquiry. For example, were the American theorists who adopted these Enlightenment notions looking more toward “liberal economists” like Smith and Hume, or did they have the ancient republican tradition in mind, as scholars like J.G.A. Pocock have suggested? Also, recent work by economists such as Thomas Piketty and Richard Wilkinson has pointed to the increasing significance of income inequality in modern Europe and America, and how that phenomenon has challenged and disrupted many of these Enlightenment promises about the salutary effects of consumerism. To take just one point of interest, it appears that conspicuous consumption may indeed lead to healthy competition under circumstances of relative parity. But under conditions of extreme inequality, that same dynamic becomes deeply destructive to individuals on an economic and psychological level. Through a 2018-19 D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership Fellowship, Dr. Hamilton completed this project in the form of a book chapter: “A Quandary for Capitalism and Property Rights,” in Civil Liberties in Real Life: Seven Studies, ed. Timothy Shiell (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2020).

Publications, Presentations, and Performances


Essays and Book Chapters

  • Review of Trading Spaces: The Colonial Marketplace and the Foundations of American Capitalism, Emma Hart, Journal of British Studies 60, no. 1 (2021), pp. 195-197.
  • “A Quandary for Capitalism and Property Rights,” in Civil Liberties in Real Life: Seven Studies, ed. Timothy Shiell (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2020).
  • “Trade, Morality, and Society: Daniel Defoe on the Wealth and Virtue Paradox,” Eighteenth-Century Studies (currently under review)
  • “What the Enlightenment Taught Us about Trade Wars,” History News Network, 12/12/2016 http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/164533 Republished as “How Free Trade Changed the Enlightenment World,” Time magazine 12/13/2016
  • “Benjamin Vaughan,” biographical essay in The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment, ed. Mark Spencer (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015)
  • “Benjamin Vaughan on Commerce and International Harmony in the 18th Century,” Ch. 7 of Sociability & Cosmopolitanism: Social Bonds on the Fringes of the Enlightenment, ed. Scott Breuninger and David Burrow (Pickering & Chatto, 2012)
  • “The U.S. Constitution as an Atlantic Document,” Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis, vol. 32, Issue 1, 2011/2012, pp. 53-56 

Selected Presentations

  • All-Consuming Commerce: The 1792 Sugar Boycott to end Slavery(paper accepted)
    “Eighteenth-Century Frontiers”
    Midwest American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (MWASECS) Conference
    Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Oct. 12-13, 2018
  • Consumerism and Happiness: the Wealth and Virtue Paradox in Historical Context
    “Happiness and the Virtues: Conference on the Character Traits of a Flourishing Life”
    D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics and Leadership, Viterbo University
    La Crosse, Wisconsin, April 11, 2014
  • ‘The Rising Glory of America:’ Las Casas, the Black Legend, and Atlantic Empire
    International Conference on the Legacy of Bartolomé de Las Casas
    Viterbo University, La Crosse, Wisconsin, Oct. 2012
  • Ethics in the Market Place: Daniel Defoe, Adam Smith, and the Depleting Moral Legacy
    Viterbo University Humanities Symposium
    La Crosse, Wisconsin, February 2011
  • The United States Constitution as an Atlantic Document
    Viterbo University Constitution Day Celebration
    La Crosse, Wisconsin, September 2010
  • Trade, Morality, and the Middle Class: Daniel Defoe on the Wealth and Virtue Paradox
    Midwest American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (MWASECS) Conference
    Wichita, Kansas, October 2010
  • Liberal Political Economy and Theories of International Harmony in the 18th Century
    Midwest American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (MWASECS) Conference
    Fargo, North Dakota, October 2009
  • Benjamin Vaughan’s Argument for Free Trade and Peace in the Eighteenth Century
    Thirty-First Annual European Studies Conference
    University of Nebraska-Omaha, October 2006
  • Free Trade and Empire in British North America
    International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS) Conference
    University of California-Los Angeles, August 2003                                        
  • John Adams, Benjamin Vaughan, and the Limits of Free Trade in the 1780s
    International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World
    Harvard University, Summer 1999