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David Singerman

Assistant Professor of History and American Studies
Office Hours: Wednesdays 11:00 - 1:00 PM | Nau Hall 484 | Reserve zoom appointment for other times at


PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014

MPhil, University of Cambridge, 2007

BA, Columbia University, 2006

Field and Specialties: 

History of science, technology, and medicine / history of capitalism

David Singerman is a historian of science, technology, the environment, and American capitalism. He received his PhD in 2014 from MIT's program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, where his research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. David's dissertation, "Inventing Purity in the Atlantic Sugar World, 1860-1930," was awarded prizes in 2015 for the best dissertation in business history in both the U.S. and Britain, and his work has been published in the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the Journal of British Studies, and Enterprise & Society, while another article is forthcoming in Radical History Review.

At UVA, he is working on his first book, entitled Purity and Power in the American Sugar Empire, 1860-1940, which narrates a new history of U.S. imperialism by tracing material struggles over knowledge about sugar’s substance and value. Drawing on research in U.S., Cuban, and Hawaiian archives, Purity and Power shows how the U.S’s attempts to govern nature and human labor in its Pacific and Caribbean colonies were inseparable from contests over corruption, free trade, and corporate power at home. He is also preparing an article about food, labor, and scientific knowledge in the 1880s and 1890s, examining scandals over the smuggling of frozen Canadian herring into Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Before coming to Virginia, David was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis and a research associate at Harvard Business School.


Journal articles and book chapters



Online essays

Pieces for

Courses Taught: 

    From fall 2024 through spring 2026, Prof. Singerman will be teaching Engagements courses in the College Fellows program.

    Current courses

    • HIST 3501 Workshop: Sugar and Global History
    • AMST 3001 Theories and Methods of American Studies
    • HIUS 2101 Technologies of American Life

    Previous courses

    • HIST 1501 The Global Financial Crisis of 2008
    • HIST 1501 Corruption and Fraud
    • AMST 3559 Science and Democracy in America