The History of Economic Thought: A Reader

The History of Economic Thought: A Reader

The History of Economic Thought: A Reader

The History of Economic Thought: A Reader


This new reader in the history of economic thought is edited by two of the most respected figures in the field. With clearly written summaries putting each selection into context and useful questions for discussion, this book will be of great use to students and lecturers of the history of economic thought.


The following pages contain some of the great literature in the history of economic ideas. The task of putting together a reader such as this is like confronting an endless smorgasbord of delights when on a highly restrictive diet - so many good things to sample and so little room to actually indulge. It should be obvious that reading the selections contained herein is no substitute for reading the original works in their entirety. However, we hope that the reader will find our selections sufficient to provide a useful overview of some of the major themes in the history of economic thought as they were developed in the hands of the giants in the field.

No “reader” can pretend to be comprehensive in its coverage. The scholars chosen for inclusion, and the passages excerpted from their works, will no doubt please some greatly and disappoint others. For the latter, we apologize. In putting together this reader, we have relied on a broad survey of course reading lists in the field, conversations with various colleagues, and our own instincts and intuition regarding topics usually covered in courses on history of economic thought. We have tried both to present the central ideas of each epoch within economic thought and to avoid overlap across writers. In doing so, we have also paid attention to the fact that certain of these classic works (e.g. Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations) are readily available in inexpensive paperback editions should the reader wish to examine them further. Thus, the length of the excerpts from, for example, Smith and Keynes reprinted here are perhaps rather more brief than what their stature in the history of economic ideas would suggest. We have also endeavored to provide sufficient introductory material for each section and each entry to provide a bit of background and plenty of suggestions for additional reading. There are many ways of doing history, and many ways of teaching the history of economic thought. We have tried to be sensitive to this in the preparation of this volume, and we are hopeful that all readers/students/scholars with interest in the history of economic ideas will find useful things to take from this volume.

While we anticipate that the primary market for this book will be students in history of economic thought courses, some of you may be reading this book simply because you have an interest in the history of ideas - economic or otherwise. For those who are new to the history of economic thought and wish to supplement their reading with secondary analysis, we refer you to Roger Backhouse's The Ordinary Business of Life (The Penguin History of Economics in the UK), Robert Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers, or the excellent textbooks in the field by Mark Blaug, Robert Ekelund and Robert Hébert, Harry Landreth and David Colander, Henry Spiegel, and Ingrid Rima. If you would like to “sit a course of lectures” in the field from your easy chair, you may consult Lionel Robbins' A History of Economic Thought: The LSE Lectures.

1 We would like to acknowledge the fact that we have drawn heavily on Mark Blaug's Great Economists Before Keynes for the biographical information contained in these introductory materials.

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