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My research interests are in political economy, particularly financial institutions, transportation infrastructure, political party development, and corruption. I am particularly interested in political entrepreneurs who bridge the worlds of business and politics.


My first book, Building the Empire State, was published in June 2015. 


I am currently working on two new projects, one about the history of corruption in American public life that looks primarily through the lens of Aaron Burr, and another that's a study of Paterson, N.J. and its history.

Building the Empire State:
Political Economy in Early America


Cloth Jun 2015 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4716-9 

Ebook Jun 2015 | ISBN 978-0-8122-9135-3

University of Pennsylvania Press

Winner of the 2016 James Broussard Best First Book Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

Building the Empire State examines the origins of American capitalism by tracing how and why business corporations were first introduced into the economy of the early republic. Brian Phillips Murphy follows the collaborations between political leaders and a group of unelected political entrepreneurs, including Robert R. Livingston and Alexander Hamilton, who persuaded legislative powers to grant monopolies corporate status in order to finance and manage civic institutions. Murphy shows how American capitalism grew out of the convergence of political and economic interests, wherein political culture was shaped by business strategies and institutions as much as the reverse.



Building Empire State Political Economy Book Brian Murphy Penn Press Banks Hamilton Burr Erie Canal Manhattan
A Companion to the Era of Andrew Jackson
edited by Sean Adams

Cloth Feb 2013 | ISBN 978-1-4443-3541-5


A Companion to the Era of Andrew Jackson offers a wealth of new insights on the era of Andrew Jackson. This collection of essays by leading scholars and historians considers various aspects of the life, times, and legacy of the seventh president of the United States.

"A very convenient instrument’: The Manhattan Company, Aaron Burr, and the Election of 1800”
Published in April 2008 William and Mary Quarterly
Winner of the Richard L. Morton Award in scholarship
NPR's Planet Money: Birth of the Dollar Bill
Episode 421 | Dec 7 2012​

Before the Civil War, there were 8,000 different kinds of money in the United States.


Banks printed their own paper money. And, unlike today, a $1 bill wasn't always worth $1. Sometimes people took the bills at face value. Sometimes they accepted them at a discount (a $1 bill might only be worth 90 cents, say.) Sometimes people rejected certain bills altogether.


We figure out how this world worked. And explain how the Civil War — and the Union's need for money — changed everything.

"Capital of Capital" Exhibition
Guest curated by Brian Murphy at the Museum of the City of New York

May - Oct 2012


It is no secret that New York is a money town.


Capital of Capital: New York's Banks and the Creation of a Global Economy explores the central role of New York’s innovative and controversial banking sector in creating the economic dynamo that is New York. Tracing the trajectory of the city’s banks from the founding of the Bank of New York by Alexander Hamilton in 1784 to their primacy in today’s national and global economies, the exhibition utilizes rare historical objects and images, including banking instruments, architectural renderings, and advertisements, to tell a saga of growth, innovation, and, at times, unintended consequences. In so doing, it shows that finance not only became central to the city’s economic development but also its cultural identity.


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