Economic Careers: Economics and Economists in Britain, 1930-1970

Economic Careers: Economics and Economists in Britain, 1930-1970

Economic Careers: Economics and Economists in Britain, 1930-1970

Economic Careers: Economics and Economists in Britain, 1930-1970


Fourteen senior economists, including Sir Henry Hardman, Prof. Terence Hutchinson and Dr Wilfred Beckerman, describe their introduction to the study of economics and their contribution to the development of academic economics in Britain.


As members of a discipline whose principles, theorems and style are rigorously impersonal, the practitioners of economics have long shown an inordinate interest in biography. From its foundation in 1891 the Economic Journal has always included obituary notices, by the 1920s extending to carefully crafted essays on the lives of the modern founding fathers, such as J. Bonar’s ‘Memories of F.Y. Edgeworth’, and of course Keynes’ obituary of Marshall, later included in his Essays in Biography alongside appreciations of Malthus, Jevons, and Foxwell. Keynes’ approach here to his subjects is courteous and appreciative—not what one might have expected from a friend of Lytton Strachey, whose Eminent Victorians set the modern style for the critical re-evaluation of public figures through biographical essay. Autobiography as a significant genre has developed much more recently—only natural in a young discipline which has had to wait for its young adepts to become senior scholars and public figures. This newer phase can perhaps be dated from Lionel Robbins’ own reminiscences, although there are personal memoirs dating from the 1940s that have remained unpublished. Many of those who played a part in the establishment of modern economics died in the course of the 1980s, sharpening our appreciation of the contributions made by individual economists and promoting both biographical obituaries and the autobiographical essay. Since

Economic Journal, vol. 36 (1926), pp. 648-53; Bonar also contributed over the years obituaries on Friedrich Engels (1895), Henry George (1897), John Ruskin (1900), Herbert Spencer (1904), and Böhm-Bawerk (1914).

J.M. Keynes, Essays in Biography, Collected Writings, vol. X, Macmillan, London, 1972; first published in 1933, an augmented edition was prepared in 1951.

First published in 1918.

There is, of course, an irony here, since Keynes’ highly influential essay on Marshall, relying on family sources for his social background, has been shown to be seriously misleading in this respect; see Ronald Coase, ‘Alfred Marshall’s Family and Ancestry’, in R. McWilliams-Tullberg (ed.) Alfred Marshall in Retrospect, Edward Elgar, Aldershot, 1990, pp. 9-27.

Autobiography of an Economist, Macmillan, London, 1971.

Sydney Chapman, ‘Some Memories and Reflections’, unpublished manuscript, c.1944 (Manchester Rylands Library); L.L. Price, ‘Memories and Notes on British Economists 1881-1947’, unpublished manuscript, 1946 (Brotherton Library, University of Leeds).

Geoff Harcourt’s recent appointment as Obituaries’ Editor of the Economic Journal demonstrates the con tinuing strong interest in reflection upon the history of economic analysis on the part of a major journal.

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