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Ian Kumekawa



Email: kumekawa@fas.harvard.edu
Web: scholar.harvard.edu/ikumekawa


Ian Kumekawa is a historian whose work focuses on economic thinking and imperial statecraft in the 19th and 20th centuries. His current book project, Imperial Schemes: Empire and the Rise of the British Business-State, 1914-1939 narrates the rise of the British “business-state”.  Covering topics from forestry to banks, arms control to advertising, Imperial Schemes narrates how global and imperial dreams of wealth and power fueled the rapid expansion of the British domestic state in the years leading up to the creation of the postwar welfare state. Contrary to the widespread myth that the prewar British state was small and liberal, the project shows how the state was already large and growing fast, especially in areas related to economic management: industrial promotion, trade, and finance.

Ian has worked extensively in the digital humanities, especially with network visualizations. His interests include the history of bureaucracy and the ways economic ideas shape social action. Ian’s first book, The First Serious Optimist (Princeton University Press, 2017), examined the intellectual origins of welfare economics, focusing specifically on its founder, Cambridge economist A.C. Pigou (1877-1959).It was co-awarded the 2017 Joseph J. Spengler Best Book Prize from the History and Economics Society. You can read the introduction here

Ian earned Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 2020. He obtained his MPhil at the University of Cambridge in 2013 and his A.B. at Harvard College in 2012.