Ariel Ron

Director of Undergraduate Studies Glenn M. Linden Associate Professor of the U.S. Civil War Era




Office Location

Dallas Hall Room 56





University of California-Berkeley, Ph.D. (2012) & M.A. (2007), University of Maryland-College Park, B.A., 2000

I’m a historian of nineteenth-century U.S. politics and economics, with particular interest in agriculture, energy and development. The most up-to-date information about my work can usually be found on my personal website.

My first book, Grassroots Leviathan: Northern Agricultural Reform in the Slaveholding Republic, came out in 2020 with Johns Hopkins University Press and won best-book awards from the Agricultural History Society and the Center for Civil War Research. Publisher info is here. A general audience review is here.

I'm currently working on a book for Norton tentatively called King Hay: The Equine Energy Regime in America, 1800-1950. It tells the story of how literal horse power formed an indispensable linchpin of the industrial energy system that carried the United States into the carbon age. During the nineteenth century, coal and other fossil fuels transformed America and the world, initiating an unprecedented era of rapid and sustained economic growth. Counterintuitively, this momentous development also brought a new age of the horse. Between 1840 and 1910—the period of mass immigration to the country—the national horse population grew faster than the human population. Horses got bigger, too, as heavier breeds were introduced to provide traction for everything from short-haul transportation to agricultural mechanization. Importantly, keeping horses at work meant growing and distributing immense quantities of fodder. This explains why, throughout the 1800s, American hay production was of comparable value to American cotton, one of the era's most important—and iconic—industrial raw materials. Yet while cotton and other global agricultural commodities, such as wheat, have been studied extensively, virtually no attention has been given to the distinctive economy tasked with fueling the era's irreplaceable prime mover. A look at the extensive operations of the equine energy regime therefore promises to reveal a great deal about the spatial, economic, political and social dynamics of industrial society in the period before roughly 1950.

I’ve held fellowships at the Library Company of Philadelphia, Yale University’s Center for the Study of Representative Institutions, Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities, and, most recently, at the Library of Congress’s Kluge Center.

I also occasionally serve as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working toward a viable protein future.


The Civil War and Reconstruction

The Energy History of the United States

The Intellectual History of Capitalism

American Economic History 


Grassroots Leviathan: Northern Agricultural Reform in the Slaveholding Republic (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020)

  • Theodore Saloutos Memorial Award for the best book on agricultural history in the United States from the Agricultural History Society
  • Wiley Silver Prize for Best First Book in Civil War History from the Center for Civil War Research

“When Hay Was King: Energy History and Economic Nationalism in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” American Historical Review 128 (March 2023): 177-213. Link (paywall)

“The Money War: Taxes, Inflation and Democracy in the American Civil War,” accepted by the Cambridge Journal of Economics (with Sofia Valeonti). Link (paywall) / SSRN working paper version.

“Taking Stock of the State in Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of the Early Republic 38 (Spring 2018): 61-66 (with Gautham Rao, an introduction to a special forum in the journal). Link (no paywall).

“Summoning the State: Northern Farmers and the Transformation of American Politics in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Journal of American History 103 (Sep 2016): 347-374. Link (no paywall).

“Scientific Agriculture and the Agricultural State: Farmers, Capitalism, and Government in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 14 (Jul 2016): 294-309. Link (no paywall).

“Henry Carey’s Rural Roots: ‘Scientific Agriculture’ and Economic Development in the Antebellum North,” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 37 (Jun 2015): 263-275. Link (no paywall).


In 2022 I wrote a white paper for the Good Food Institute, co-authored with Alex Smith of the Breakthrough Institute, entitled, “American National Competitiveness and the Future of Meat: Why the United States Needs to Build Up a Domestic Alternative Proteins Industry” (link). A shorter and slightly updated version of our key points appeared as “Meat without Animals” in Noema Magazine (link).

You can find other writing I've done for general audiences on my personal website.

This page last updated January 2024


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