Joyce Appleby began her career as a journalist, working for Mademoiselle magazine and The Pasadena Star-News, before turning to academia. She decided to become a historian because of “a very early, unexamined fascination with the complexity of human beings and their social enactments.”
From 1967 to 1981 Appleby taught at San Diego State University, attaining the ranks of professor of history and associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters. In 1981 she took a job as professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. She served as department chair from 1987 to 1988, and in 1991 was named Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford for the academic year. Appleby is now a professor emerita at UCLA.
Appleby was instrumental in getting Congress to appropriate $2 million for sending collections of works on the United States to foreign universities and colleges in order to better equip those institutions’ American Studies programs. In addition to her academic work, Joyce Appleby has been involved in the fight for living wages for the poor in California, having served on the advisory board for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.
Appleby is an award-winning writer, having received the Berkshire Prize for her second book, Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England. Her other books include Inheriting the Revolution, about the first generation of Americans after the Revolutionary War; The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism; and Shores of Knowledge, published in October 2013.