Keynote: Jacob Soll

University of Southern California

Born in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin, Jacob Soll is University Professor (one of only 22 at USC), and Professor of Philosophy, History and, Accounting at the University of Southern California.

He received a B.A. from the University of Iowa, a D.E.A. from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France, and a Ph.D. from Magdalene College, Cambridge University.  He has taught at Cambridge University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, and the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy.

Soll has been awarded numerous prestigious prizes including the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and, in 2011, the $500,000 MacArthur “Genius Prize” Fellowship.

Soll’s first book, Publishing “The Prince” (2005), examines how Machiavelli's work was popularized and influenced modern political thought.  It received the Jacques Barzun Prize from the American Philosophical Society.  In his second book, The Information Master (2009), Soll investigates how Louis XIV's famous finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert fused financial management and library sciences to create one of the first modern information states. 

His most recent book, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (2014), presents a sweeping history of accounting and politics, drawing on a wealth of examples from over a millennia of human history to reveal how accounting can used to both build kingdoms, empires and entire civilizations, but also to undermine them.  It explains the origins of our own financial crisis as deeply rooted in a long disconnect between human beings and their attempts to manage financial numbers.  The Reckoning has sold more than 70,000 copies worldwide.

His new books include Accounting, Economics and the Languages of Political Reform, from the British Empire to the Greek Debt Crisis

 (Basic Books), an analysis of how the disappearance of accountants from public financial discourse plays a role in economic and social instability; The Enlightenment Library (Yale University Press); and the first English edition of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s economic writings (Anthem).

Soll is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Politico, the Boston Globe, The New Republic, PBS, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

 He has spent the last several years directly involved with policy questions concerning the Greek debt crisis and EU economic policy, working with Greek, EU and private stake-holders, and has recently worked with the Greek government, the European Commission and the Prime Minister of Spain.  An award-winning Renaissance and Enlightenment intellectual historian, Professor Soll was also was named one of the Top Accounting Power 50 2015 by The Accountant magazine, the oldest publication in the profession.  Mixing historical scholarship with policy studies, he is now a noted independent public spokesperson for government transparency, international financial standards and professional accounting ethics.   

 He lives in Los Angeles.