Travis E. Ross

Historian of capitalism, knowledge, and the Pacific World


Cover illustration from the April 18, 1885 edition of The Wasp

Hubert Howe Bancroft, depicted in The Wasp, April 18, 1885.

I am currently working on a book manuscript and a few supporting articles, all of which examine how capitalism structured humanistic knowledge production before and after academic professionalization.

My monograph will focus on how the California bookseller Hubert Howe Bancroft used his publishing empire to marshal a transnational intellectual network to research and to write collaboratively what its participants hoped would be the definitive history of that vast region. Between roughly 1870 and 1890, Bancroft & Company created a viable, for-profit historical profession that produced the core collection of what became UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library as well as the 39-volume history of western North America that has had an enduring influence on the historiography of that vast region.

In a few complementary articles, I will examine how academic professionalization restructured popular and elite expectations regarding serious historical writing, remaking the subfield of western history in the process.