Jacob Soll

University Professor and Professor of Philosophy, History and Accounting
Jacob Soll
Email soll@usc.edu Office SOS 153 Office Phone (213) 740-1657

Research & Practice Areas

The history of information and knowledge; political history; economic history; history of books and libraries; accounting; the history of political and financial transparency. The Renaissance and Enlightenments.


Jacob Soll is professor of history and accounting at the University of Southern California.

He received a B.A. from the University of Iowa, a D.E.A. from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France, and a Ph.D. from Magdalene College, Cambridge University. He has been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including two NEH Fellowships, the Jacques Barzun Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and, in 2011, the MacArthur Fellowship.

Soll’s first book, Publishing “The Prince” (2005), examines how Machiavelli’s work was popularized and influenced modern political thought.  It won the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society.  In his second book, The Information Master (2009), Soll investigates how Louis XIV’s famous finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert fused financial management and library sciences to create one of the first modern information states. 

His most recent book, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (2014), presents a sweeping history of accounting and politics, drawing on a wealth of examples from over a millennia of human history to reveal how accounting can used to both build kingdoms, empires and entire civilizations, but also to undermine them.  It explains the origins of our own financial crisis as deeply rooted in a long disconnect between human beings and their attempts to manage financial numbers.  The Reckoning, reviewed in major newspapers and publications around the world, has sold more than 60,000 copies worldwide, and has been translated into five languages.

His new books include Free Market: The History of a Dream (Basic Books), an analysis of classical philosophy, natural law, history and contemporary economic culture; a history of libraries and Enlightenment (Yale University Press); and the first English edition of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s economic writings (Anthem).


Soll has been a correspondent for the Boston Globe, and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Politico, the New Republic, PBS, Salon.com and the Chronicle of Higher Education.


Soll is currently meeting with political and financial leaders across the globe to promote accounting standards and financial transparency.


Recent journal and chapter publications include:



    • “Jean Baptiste Colbert: Accounting and the Genesis of a State Archive in Early

          Modern France,” Proceedings of  the British Society, forthcoming 2017. 


   • “From Virtue to Surplus: Jacques Necker’s Compte Rendu (1781) and the

          Origins of Modern Political Discourse,” Representations 134 (216), pp. 29-63.


    •  “The Grafton Method, or the Science of Tradition,” in Ann Blair and Anja-Silvia

          Goeing, eds., For the Sake of Learning: Essays in Honor of Anthony Grafton, 2

        vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 2, pp. 1019-1032.


    •  “Intellectual History and the History of the Book,” in Richard Whatmore and

          Brian Young, eds. A Companion to Intellectual History, (Chichester: John Wiley

        And Sons/Blackwell, 2016), pp. 7282.




  • Ph.D. Magdalene College, Cambridge University, 1998
  • M.A.S École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, 1993
  • B.A. History and French, University of Iowa, 1991
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    My work examines the origins of modern politics and the modern state by looking at essential elements often overlooked by political historians. My first book, Publishing The Prince examined how editors and publishers transformed Machiavelli’s classic work The Prince, making it into a radical work. A second book, The Information Master looks at how Louis XIV’s famous minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert used libraries, accounting, classical scholars and scientists to make an information network to build a modern state. New work continues down these avenues. My most recent book, The Reckoning, is a cultural and intellectual history of accounting and financial accountability. My current project is a new intellectual history of economic policy, free market thought and accounting based on the history of philosophy, rhetoric and utopian political theory and he ideas of nature and the lasting influence of the cult of agrarian society. I continue to work on my history of libraries and their relationship to the Enlightenment.

    Research Specialties

    The history of information and knowledge; political history; economic history; history of books and libraries; accounting; the history of political and financial transparency. The Renaissance and Enlightenments.

    • USC University Professor, 2012/07/01
    • Kazarian Foundation Fellowship, 2021-2022
    • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Recipient, Public Scholar Grant, 2018-2019
    • MacArthur Fellow, MacArthur Fellowship, 2012
    • Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, 2009-2010
    • Visiting Scholar, Trinity College, Cambridge University, 2009
    • Fernand Braudel Visiting Professor, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, 2007
    • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Recipient, Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2005-2006
    • American Philosphical Society, Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History, American Philosophical Society,, 2005
    • American Philosphical Society, Franklin Grant, American Philosophical Society, 2004
    • Selma V. Forkosch Prize for the Best Article Published in the Journal of the History of Ideas in the Year , 2000-2001
    • Luso-American Foundation Research Fellowship, Summer, 1998/05/15-1998/08/15
    • Magdalene College Research Scholarship, 1998/05/15-1998/08/15
    • Magdalene College Leslie Wilson Research Scholarship, 1997/05/15-1997/08/15
    • Cambridge Historical Society Research Grant, 1997/03-1997/04
    • Magdalene College Research Award, 1997/03-1997/04
    • Bibliographical Society Research Grant, 1996/03-1996/04
    • Prince Consort and Thirlwall Fund Grant, 1996/03-1996/04
    • Royal Historical Society Research Grant, 1996/01-1996/03
    • Overseas Research Scholarship, 1995
    • otary Club Study Abroad Fellowship, 1991
    • Phi Beta Kappa University of Iowa, 1991
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