Anne E. C. McCants

Professor of History
MacVicar Faculty Fellow
(On Leave Fall 2019)


A.B. Mount Holyoke College, 1984
M.A. University of California, Los Angeles, 1985
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1991

Anne McCants is a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow and Professor of History at MIT, and currently serves as the President of the International Economic History Association.

Her research and teaching interests lie in the economic and social history of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe, as well as in the application of social science research methods across the disciplines.  She is the author of Civic Charity in a Golden Age: Orphan Care in Early Modern Amsterdam (1997); co-editor of Railroads in Historical Context: Construction, Costs, and Consequences, (in three volumes, 2011-2013); and author of numerous articles that range across her research interests in historical demography, material culture, early modern trade and consumption, the provision of charity, and the relationship between economic growth and the standard of living.  This work has appeared in many venues, including the Economic History Review, Explorations in Economic History, Family History, Historical Methods, the Journal of Economic History, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, the Journal of World History, Social Science History, and the Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History.

Anne’s research projects span multiple centuries of European economic development but are all grounded in a common concern to better understand the standard of living in the past and those features of economic and social life that contribute to human welfare.  She is currently working on multiple projects.  One is an on-going investigation into the origins and the socio-economic scope of the consumer revolution in the Dutch Republic, working with nearly one thousand household inventories drawn up in the second half of the eighteenth century at the deaths of low-to-middle-income burgers from the city of Amsterdam.  In work co-authored with Dan Seligson, she is examining the long-term roots of economic development with a particular focus on the role played by institutions of the family and gender equity, and developing new measures for the study of wellbeing.  Furthermore, she is at work on a book project that examines the economic and institutional history of the movement to build cathedrals and other major churches in the Gothic style in North-western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  Here she is especially interested in the financial arrangements that facilitated the development of new building technologies and church construction on a monumental scale, as well as the economic impact of those building projects.

At MIT Anne serves as the Director of the Concourse Program, a First Year Learning Community dedicated to exploring fundamental questions that lie at the intersection of science, social science, and humanistic inquiry; as the Faculty Representative to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Program; and is active in faculty governance.  She also serves as the Editor for Social Science History.