Michael T. Caires

Michael T. Caires

Graduate Student (ABD)

Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Bankard Fund in Political Economy, 2012-2013.

Email: mcaires (at) virginia.edu

Fields & Specialties

19th Century U.S.,Civil War and Reconstruction , Political Economy, Politics, and Law.

M.A. History, San Francisco State University, 2007.

B.A. History and Political Science, San Francisco State University, 2005.

I study nineteenth century American political economy with an emphasis on monetary policy, banking, and its relationship to the state, law, and politics.

My dissertation, “The Greenback Union: Creating the American Monetary Union in the Civil War Era,” explores the unprecedented growth of federal power over money and banking during the Civil War Era. The introduction of greenbacks and national banks during the war years created a dramatic shift from a country with a heterogeneous supply of banknotes to a unified nation of greenbacks during the 1860s. 

My project goes well beyond the war years to show how this new departure grew out of the failure of the market and state governments to provide a reliable paper currency in antebellum era. A distrust of the market and local governments to harness the power of money led to a new political consensus during the war that favored a new national currency, and more importantly, a greater role for the national government in economic life. This expanded authority had a host of unintended consequences for the postwar period, enlarging the federal state, realigning national politics, and pointing the country toward the political economy of the Gilded Age. 

In short, the “Greenback Union” is my attempt to use the history of money as means of exploring the borderlands between political, legal, and economic histories.

Recent Talks

“The Political Economy of Gold, Money and Loyalty: Californians and the Greenbacks in the Civil War Era” Bancroft Library Roundtable, U.C. Berkeley, May 17, 2012. 

“One Union, One Currency, Many Banks: The Jacksonian Origins of National Banking.” Panel: "The Civil War and Developmental Politics: Defining Money, Land, and Commerce in Nineteenth Century America:" 2012 Policy History Conference, June 2012.


Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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