Anne E. C. McCants

Professor of History
MacVicar Faculty Fellow


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 with research and teaching interests 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), and numerous articles that range across her research interests in historical demography, material culture, early modern trade and consumption, the provision of charity, and the standard of living in the Dutch Republic.  This work has appeared in 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 the economy that contribute to social welfare.  She is currently working on three different projects.  The first is an 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 a second project Anne is working in collaboration with a team of economists, engineers, and historians to study the technical achievement and economic and social impact of the first fully Portuguese-managed railroad project in the Valley of the Tua River in the late nineteenth century.  Three annual workshops of this group were held in Foz Tua, and a follow up conference will convene in June 2016.  Finally, 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.  She is especially interested in the financial arrangements that allowed for church construction on a monumental scale and the economic impact of those building projects.

At MIT Anne serves as the Director of the Concourse Program, a Freshmen 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 as Head of House for Burton Conner with her husband Bill McCants.  She also serves as the Editor for Social Science History, and is currently the Vice-President (to be followed by appointment to President) of the International Economic History Association.