369: Jacob Soll | From Ancient Rome To The 21st Century In “Free Market: The History of an Idea”

Jacob Soll is professor of history and accounting at the University of Southern California. He received a B.A. from the University of Iowa, a D.E.A. from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France, and a Ph.D. from Magdalene College, Cambridge University. He has been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including two NEH Fellowships, the Jacques Barzun Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and, in 2011, the MacArthur Fellowship.

Soll’s first book, Publishing “The Prince” (2005), examines how Machiavelli’s work was popularized and influenced modern political thought.  It won the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society.  In his second book, The Information Master (2009), Soll investigates how Louis XIV’s famous finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert fused financial management and library sciences to create one of the first modern information states. 

His most recent book, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (2014), presents a sweeping history of accounting and politics, drawing on a wealth of examples from over a millennia of human history to reveal how accounting can used to both build kingdoms, empires and entire civilizations, but also to undermine them.  It explains the origins of our own financial crisis as deeply rooted in a long disconnect between human beings and their attempts to manage financial numbers.  The Reckoning, reviewed in major newspapers and publications around the world, has sold more than 60,000 copies worldwide, and has been translated into five languages.

His new books include Free Market: The History of a Dream (Basic Books), an analysis of classical philosophy, natural law, history and contemporary economic culture; a history of libraries and Enlightenment (Yale University Press); and the first English edition of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s economic writings (Anthem).

Soll has been a correspondent for the Boston Globe, and a regular contributor to the New York TimesPolitico, the New Republic, PBS, Salon.com and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Soll is currently meeting with political and financial leaders across the globe to promote accounting standards and financial transparency.