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Jennifer Begakis

Ph.D. Candidate

Jennifer Begakis

Mcgraw Hall

Educational Background

The University of California, Berkeley, B.A. 2015.



I am a historian of American capitalism working on the twentieth-century consumer economy. I research critical turns in touristic planning from the New Deal to the present. 

Advisor:  Lawrence Glickman


Histories of Capitalism

City and Regional Planning 

Economic Geography


  • History

Graduate Fields

  • Modern American History
  • History of Capitalism
  • City and Regional Planning


  • Department of City and Regional Planning
  • Cornell AAP


Economic planning and its many failures. My dissertation addresses the history of domestic commercial, recreational development, and strategic planning initiatives for the creation of destination tourism. I analyze the making and management of themed experiences, emphasizing tensions between quality control and innovation. For my case studies, I examine Walt Disney Parks and Resorts from the early-1940s to the mid-1980s. 

The Best Laid Plans of Mouse and Man; Testing the Limits of Strategic Planning (The Failures of Disney Park Investments from the 1940s into the 1980s) 

This project unpacks the history of Disney’s domestic investments and discovers profound intellectual and political implications of large-scale private economic planning throughout the New Deal Era. Including--while not limited to--the impact of R&D, urban design, financial forecasting, and legal strategy. By focusing my research and analysis on the company’s failures and failed investments, my work explores the critical limits of strategic planning for regional economic development.

The tourism industry-market interaction provides a lens to approach histories of City and Regional planning ideas and economic development from the 1930s into the 1980s. Moreover, Disney’s failures to plan or execute company plans offer new insight into the history of Disney and Disney parks and the histories of New Deal liberalism and economic development more broadly. 

I contend that the failures bring to view a history of capitalism that which stories of successes do not. With that in mind, my dissertation investigates the ideological aspirations, business undertakings, and critical political and economic limits of large-scale strategic planning for the comprehensive development of new fabricated geographies and themed cityscapes.


I am interested in histories of New Deal liberalism, economic thought, economic geography, public-private partnerships, municipal authority and governance, R&D research, suburbanization, and architectures of commercial consumption.