Scott Reynolds Nelson is the prizewinning author of five books on 19th-century US history. The New York Times has most recently called him a “fascinating guide to the grim landscape of Reconstruction.” His book, Steel Drivin’ Man (2007), about the life of the African-American folklore legend John Henry, won four national awards including the National Award for Arts Writing and the Merle Curti Prize for best book in US history. A young-adult book he co-wrote with Marc Aronson, Ain’t Nothing But a Man (2007), describes how historians do research. With Carol Sheriff he wrote a social history of the American Civil War entitled A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War (2008). His book on the history of capitalism, A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters (2012) was named a best business book of the year by Business Week. He has been a research fellow at Harvard University, the Filson Historical Society, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and in 2019-20 was named a Guggenheim fellow. He is at work on a history of cheap food for Basic Books tentatively entitled Oceans of Grain: Food and the Fate of Empires. It explores how cheap American grain helped to destabilize the Ottoman, Qing, and Russian Empires.
“Who Put their Capitalism in My Slavery?” Journal of the Civil War Era 5.2 (June 2015): 289-310.
“The Ordeal of Eugene Debs: The Panic of 1893, the Pullman Strike and the Origins of the Progressive Movement,” in Leon Fink, et. al., eds., Workers in Hard Times: A Long View of Economic Crises (University of Illinois Press, 2014), 99-110.
“A Storm of Cheap Goods: New American Commodities and the Panic of 1873,” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 10 (Oct. 2011): 447-453.
“An American War of Incarceration: Guerilla Warfare, Occupation, and Imprisonment in the American South, 1863-1865,” in Stephen J. Rockel and Rick Halpern, Inventing Collateral Damage: Civilian Casualties, War, and Empire (Between the Lines, 2009), 115-128.
“After Slavery: Forced Drafts of Irish and Chinese Labor in the American Civil War, or The Search for Liquid Labor” in Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus, and Marcus Rediker, ed., Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World (University of California Press, September 2007)
PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U.S. History 1995