Brent Cebul

Brent Cebul

Assistant Professor of History

Twentieth-century U.S.; political; capitalism, business and political economy; urban and regional


College Hall 216 D

Brent Cebul is a historian of the twentieth century United States with a focus on state formation, economic development, inequality, and federalism. His research and teaching particularly address urban and metropolitan history, political history, race and identity in American politics, business history and capitalism, contemporary political and policy debates in historical perspective, and digital history.

His current book project is tentatively titled Illusions of Progress: Business, Poverty, and Liberalism in the American Century (under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press). The book recasts the history of 20th century liberalism by illuminating the origins and evolution of liberalism's "supply side" since the New Deal. From Franklin Roosevelt's administration to Bill Clinton's generation of New Democrats, liberalism's supply side supported quiet structural interventions in the economy intended, on the one hand, to stimulate innovation and private sector capital formation, and, on the other hand, to generate the tax revenues with which liberals imagined funding a broader progressive social agenda. Case studies in the emerging Sunbelt and deindustrializing Rustbelt excavate the public-private partnerships that drove liberalism's supply side and emphasize the local outcomes and consequences of liberals' often naive, racially blinkered, and politically expedient reduction of the pursuit of social progress to stimulating economic growth. 

After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia (2014), Cebul was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the Mellon Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Digital Humanities at the University of Richmond's Digital Scholarship Lab. He has also been an associate fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, a Miller Center National Fellow, and a Roberts Fellow at the Eisenhower Institute. Prior to joining Penn, Cebul was Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Selected Digital History Projects:

 Renewing Inequality: Mapping Urban Renewal, 1954-1974,” in American Panorama, Digital

Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond (Initial Launch, December 2017)

Office Hours
MW 3:30PM-4:30PM

Ph.D. University of Virginia, 2014

Courses Taught

HIST 356 Age of Reagan: U.S. Politics and Society, 1960-2001

HIST 153/URB 104 Transformations of Urban America, 1945-Present

HIST 231 History Behind the Headlines: Contemporary Political and Policy Debates in Historical Perspective

Selected Publications

 Shaped by the State: Toward a New Political History of the Twentieth Century, edited with Lily Gesimer and Mason B. Williams (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2018)

"Creative Competition: Georgia Power, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Creation of a Rural Consumer Economy, 1934-1955," Journal of American History, Vol. 105, Issue 1, June 2018, 45-70

“Clio and the Compound Republic,” Publius: The Journal of Federalism, (2017) 47 (2): 235-259, with Karen Tani and Mason B. Williams

“The Antigovernment Impulse: The Modern Presidency, the Market, and the Splintering Common Good,” in Roger Biles and Mark Rose, eds., The President and American Capitalism Since 1945 (University Press of Florida, 2017)

“‘They were the moving spirits’: Business and Supply-Side Liberalism in the Postwar South,” in Kim Phillips-Fein and Richard John, eds., Capital Gains: Business and Politics in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)