Emily Erikson

Emily Erikson's picture
Associate Professor of Sociology
Room 401, 493 College St, New Haven, CT 06511-8907
(203) 432-6332
Curriculum Vitae: 

Areas of Interest

Social Networks, Economic Development, Comparative Historical Sociology, Theory, Globalization


Emily Erikson conducts research in the fields of social networks, comparative historical sociology, organizations, theory, and economic sociology. Her focus is on the role of social networks in historical and cultural change. Her book, Between Monopoly and Free Trade: The English East India Company, (Princeton University Press, 2014) examines the impact of social networks on the fortunes of the English East India Company and by extension the relationship between Britain and Asia. Current research includes both extending existing work on the English East India Company by examining the role of the chartered companies as a site for the negotiation and coordination of the interests of capitalists and imperialists as well as new work on the difference between routine and ritual, agency and choice as expressed within social networks, and citation patterns in academic research. She is a consulting editor for the American Journal of Sociology, serves on the editorial board of Sociology Theory, sits as a council member of the Comparative Historical Section of the ASA, and is co-convenor (with Olav Sorenson) of the Social Networks Working Group. 


  • Erikson, Emily, ed. 2015. Chartering Capitalism: Organizing Markets, States, and Publics. Political Power and Social Theory/Emerald Publishing.
  • Erikson, Emily. (2014) Between Monopoly and Free Trade: The English East India CompanyPrinceton University Press.
    • Co-winner, Allan Sharlin Memorial Award, 2015, Social Science History Association
    • Co-winner, Ralph Gomory Prize, 2015, Business History Conference and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
    • Gaddis Smith International Book Prize, 2016, MacMillan Center, Yale University
    • James Coleman Award for Outstanding Book, 2016, Rationality & Society Section of the American Sociological Association
The English East India Company was one of the most powerful and enduring companies in history. This book locates the source of that success in the innovation and internal cohesion generated through what was initially a cost-saving measure, in which the court of directors granted employees the right to pursue their own commercial interests while in the employ of the firm.
Though the Company held a monopoly on English overseas trade to Asia, the Court of Directors extended the right to trade within Asia to their employees, creating an unusual situation in which employees both worked for themselves and for the Company as overseas merchants. Building on the organizational infrastructure of the English Company and the institutional base of the rich and sophisticated market of the East, the employees built a cohesive internal network of peer communications, i.e. a social network, that was used to direct English trading ships during their voyages. This network integrated Company operations, encouraged innovation, and increased the Company’s flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness to local circumstance.
The book thus provides an answer to the historical puzzle of why the English East India Company was such a singularly dynamic force in the expansion of trade between Europe and Asia. This puzzle is particularly compelling because it is nested within the larger historical questions of why Western Europe experienced a unique trajectory of rapid economic development and how the relationship between Europe and Asia came to shift so rapidly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The argument is built upon an analysis of trade network dynamics, a statistical investigation of decision-making processes, and institutional analysis of ports and organizational context. This multi-method approach is designed to link macro and micro levels of analysis by offering an explanation of large-scale historical change in the world economy rooted in mechanisms operating at the level of the individuals that participated in that change. 
The central theoretical issues addressed are (1) the role of social networks, organizations, and decentralization in historical change and trade expansion (2) the role of the Asian institutional context in fostering early-modern European commercial expansion.

Selected Articles

Selected Reviews and Chapters

  • Erikson, Emily. Forthcoming 2017 “Networks and Network Theory: Possible Directions for Unification” Social Theory Now, Claudio Benzecry, Monika Krause, and Isaac Reed, eds. University of Chicago Press.
  • Erikson, Emily. Forthcoming. “The Influence of Trade with Asia on British Economic Theory and Practice” Global Historical Sociology, edited volume, Julian Go, George Lawson, eds. Cambridge University Press.
  • Erikson, Emily. 2015. “Relationalism Emergent” Review of Applying Relational Sociology and Conceptualizing Relational Sociology in Contemporary Sociology, 44(1): 3-7. DOI 10.1177/0094306114562200
  • Erikson, Emily. 2014. Review of Simon Polillo’s Conservatives versus Wildcats: An Economic Sociology of Conflict. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 119 (2): 1495-1497.
  • Erikson, Emily. 2012. “Impossible Engineering” Book Review. Sociological Forum, Vol. 27 (2): pp. 552-556.
  • Erikson, Emily. 2008. “The Real Network Society” Review of The Art of the Network: Strategic Interaction and Patronage in Renaissance Florence by Paul D. McLean. Historical Methods, 41 (4), pp. 163-166.
  • White, Harrison and Emily Erikson. 2003. “Taboo” Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.


  • Interview on The MacMillan Report, Erikson speaks about her award-winning book, ”Between Monopoly and Free Trade: The English East India Company, 1600-1757. 

Courses and Seminars


  • SOCY 151/Hums 302/PLSC 290, Foundations of Modern Social Theory
  • SOCY 167, Social Networks and Society
  • SOCY 219, Economic Sociology


  • SOCY 542, Sociological Theory
  • SOCY 564, Advanced Topics in Social Theory
  • SOCY 573, Social Capital and Small Group Processes
  • SOCY 632, Social Network Analysis


  • Yale Institute of Network Science
  • South Asian Council
  • The Center for Comparative Research (CCR)
  • The Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course (CIQLE)
  • Social Network Working Group
  • Transitions to Modernity Colloquium


Ph.D. Columbia University, 2006