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Learning Laboratory: Prof. Stephen Sawyer on Public Finance in Extreme Circumstances

In the tenth episode of the Learning Laboratory video series, Professor Stephen Sawyer looks for lessons from the past by comparing the Covid-19 outbreak and the ensuing financial crisis with similar events from history. By looking at the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, historians are able to gain perspective on public heath emergencies. Historians are similarly looking for precedents in public finance to understand the potential consequences of the massive accumulation of debt currently occurring in the wealthiest economies. In this video, Sawyer takes a closer look at the economic, financial and fiscal consequences of the Franco-Prussian war and the communes that were established throughout France in 1870 and 1871. What lessons can we learn from this period when dealing with the fallout of Covid-19?

About Professor Stephen Sawyer

Stephen W. Sawyer is Professor of History and Political Science and Director of the Center for Critical Democracy Studies at The American University of Paris. Sawyer came to AUP from the University of Chicago center in Paris and the Ecole Normale Supérieure-rue d’Ulm where he was lecturer in the final years of his dissertation. After receiving fellowships from the EHESS, Fulbright, and Sciences Po, Sawyer served as part-time assistant to Pierre Rosanvallon at the Collège de France. A specialist in political history and theory, Sawyer earned his PhD at the University of Chicago. He has served on the editorial board of the Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales and as the Associate Editor for its English version since 2012. In 2014–15, he was named inaugural Neubauer Collegium Fellow at the University of Chicago. Appointed Directeur de publications of The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville in 2014, he founded the online platform Tocqueville21. In 2018–2019, he was named research fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In Spring 2020 he was invited to be Kratter Visiting Professor to the History Department at Stanford University.