Brooks Adams was an American historian and a critic of capitalism. He graduated from Harvard University in 1870 and studied at Harvard Law School in 1870 and 1871.
He believed that commercial civilizations rise and fall in predictable cycles. First, masses of people draw together in large population centers and engage in commercial activities. As their desire for wealth grows, they discard spiritual and creative values. Their greed leads to distrust and dishonesty, and eventually the society crumbles. In The Law of Civilization and Decay (1895), Adams noted that as new population centers emerged in the west, centers of world trade shifted from Constantinople to Venice to Amsterdam to London. He predicted in America's Economic Supremacy (1900) that New York would become the world trade center.
Adams was a grandson of John Quincy Adams, a son of U.S. diplomat Charles Francis Adams, and brother to Henry Brooks Adams, philosopher, historian, and novelist, whose theories of history were influenced by his work.