Economic Ideas and Government Policy: Contributions to Contemporary Economic History

By Alec Cairncross | Go to book overview

1

IN PRAISE OF ECONOMIC HISTORY*

Sixty years ago, when I began to study economics, there was no sharp line of division between economists and economic historians. Most of the great names in economics from Adam Smith to Keynes, not forgetting Malthus, Mill, Marx, and Marshall, showed a keen interest in history, sometimes deriving their theories from historical evidence, sometimes turning to the past to show the bearing of their theories on policy. The Adam Smith Professor of Political Economy at Glasgow, W.R. Scott, was a distinguished economic historian, the author of a three-volume study of Joint stock companies to 1720 (which, however, none of us ever opened). We were introduced to economics by way of the Mercantilists and the Physiocrats and not allowed to complete the honours course without including a paper in economic history.

I cannot pretend that we took to economic history with much enthusiasm. We had a more immediate interest in current events such as the Wall Street slump, the devaluation of the pound and the long debate on war debts and reparations. Developments in economic theory were just as exciting and as there were few books and only a couple of journals you could hardly miss them. Keynes’s Treatise on money came out in 1930, Kahn’s article on the multiplier in 1931 and Sraffa, Shove and Harrod were debating increasing returns in the Economic Journal and preparing the way for Joan Robinson’s Imperfect competition.

Seen alongside these developments, economic history seemed rather pedestrian. Three volumes of Lipson and the first volume of Clapham took a lot of reading and yielded little to stir the mind. One could hardly say that of Tawney but then The acquisitive society (which was not economic history) was much closer to our interests than The agrarian problem in the sixteenth century (which was). In the works we read there seemed little use of economic theory: they were narrative, factual and descriptive, devoid of hypothesis, analysis, and causal chains. It was only on occasion that our attention was drawn to a problem requiring explanation in terms of economic theory. If the

* The Tawney Memorial Lecture to the Economic History Society, 1988; from Economic History Review, May 1989, pp. 173-85.

-1-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Economic Ideas and Government Policy: Contributions to Contemporary Economic History
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 284

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.