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Phone: 310-206-7600
Fax: 310-206-9630
E-mail: wrs@history.ucla.edu

Mailing Address:

UCLA Department of History
6265 Bunche Hall
Box 951473
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473

Class Websites


Brazil, Latin America, Economic History, Atlantic History

Research Interests

William Summerhill did his his Ph.D. in History at Stanford, and his M.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science at the University of Florida. His research interests in the economic history of Brazil include sovereign debt, banking and finance, education, the provision of infrastructure, and inequality.

He has been a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and in the Departamento de Economia of the Universidade de São Paulo. He was a visiting research scholar at the Escola de Pós-Graduação em Economia of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (EPGE-FGV), and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He has presented his research at the Universidade de São Paulo, Insper, EPGE-FGV, the Instituto de Estudos de Política Econômica/Casa das Garças, IPEA, and the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, among other Brazilian universities and research institutes. Since 2011 he has served a co-editor of the Revista de Historia Económica. He is completing a book manuscript on slave traders, merchant bankers, and the fiscal origins of institutional change at the time of independence.

Before taking up a career in research and teaching (and occasionally after) he served as an Army paratrooper, and regularly speaks to groups of student veterans on campus.


Cited in the Estado de São Paulo; Quoted in the Wall Street Journal; Interview in Valor Econômico, "Lições da história econômica"; Coverage by the research foundation of the state of São Paulo (FAPESP): "Quem não deve não tem crédito"; Cited by Élio Gaspari in Folha de São Paulo.

Selected Publications


Inglorious Revolution: Political Institutions, Sovereign Debt, and Financial Underdevelopment in Imperial Brazil (Yale University Press, 2015)

Order Against Progress: Government, Foreign Investment, and Railroads in Brazil, 1854-1913 (Stanford University Press, 2003).

Articles and chapters:

"A Agricultura Paulista em 1905," (with Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna), Estudos Econômicos, vol. 44, no. 1, 2014.

"The New Economic History of Latin America: Evolution and Recent Contributions" (with John H. Coatsworth), in The Oxford Handbook of Latin American History, Jose Moya, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2010).

"Fiscal Bargains, Political Institutions, and Economic Performance," Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 88, no. 2 (2008): 219-33.

"Infrastructure," in Victor Bulmer-Thomas, John H. Coatsworth, and Roberto Cortes Conde, The Cambridge Economic History of Latin America, Vol. II, The Long Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

"Big Social Savings in a Small Laggard Economy: Railroad-Led Growth in Brazil," Journal of Economic History, Vol. 65, no. 1 (2005): 72-102.

"State bank transformation in Brazil – choices and consequences" (with Thorsten Beck and Juan Miguel Crivelli), Journal of Banking and Finance, Vol. 29, no. 8 (2005): 2223-2257.

“Order, Disorder, and Economic Change: Latin America vs. North America,” (with Douglass C. North and Barry R. Weingast), in Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Hilton Root, eds., Governing for Prosperity (Yale University Press, 2000).

"Market Intervention in a Backward Economy: Railway Subsidy in Brazil, 1854-1913,"Economic History Review, Vol. 53, no. 3 (1998): 542-568.

Work in Progress:

"The Economic Impact of Education in Twentieth-Century Brazil" (with Samuel de Abreu Pessôa and Edmilson Varejão)

"From Quilimane to The City: Rio Slavers, London Bankers, and the Atlantic Origins of Representative Government in Brazil, 1796-1831"

"Colonial Institutions, Slavery, Inequality, and Development: Evidence from São Paulo, Brazil"
[Download at SSRN]
[Download at Munich RePEc Archive]

"Productivity in the Paraiba Valley: Assessing Agricultural Efficiency in 19th-Century Brazil"
[Download at RePEc]


Fulbright IIE, Fulbright-Hays, ACLS Burkhardt, NSF, NEH, ACLS-SSRC, FAPESP


Alexander Gerschenkron Prize, Economic History Association

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