Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Dr. Henry William Spiegel (1911-1995): Emigre Economist, Historian of Economics, Creative Scholar, and Companion

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Dr. Henry William Spiegel (1911-1995): Emigre Economist, Historian of Economics, Creative Scholar, and Companion

Article excerpt


Hagemann on the Emigre Economist

What were the contributions of Jewish scholars to the development of American economics? What role did emigre economists play in the process of developing mathematical economics? These were the key questions Henry Spiegel asked at the end of his life. Indeed, Spiegel was one of a large number of European refugees who arrived in the United States between 1933 and the end of World War II, mainly but not exclusively from Nazi Germany and Austria. When he analyzed and assessed the various contributions by eminent Jewish intellectuals and refugee scholars to the subdisciplines of economics for the Jewish-American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia (Spiegel, 1992), the new ideas and different traditions that the Jewish scholars brought into the social structures that existed before their arrival, especially the merging with the American tradition, inspired Spiegel to return to his roots.

Henry William Spiegel was born in Berlin, Germany, on October 13, 1911. Despite the financial setbacks connected to the early death of his parents, in 1930 he graduated from the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium, where he received a classical humanities education. After this, he studied law at the Universities of Heidelberg and Cologne, and attended the University of Berlin, where he received the Doctor of Laws degree in 1933. The anti-Jewish Nazi administration denied Spiegel his appointment as a lawyer, although he did pass the first state examination. For some time he made a living as a journalist, publishing, for example, two long newspaper stories on war economics and the debate about nationalization of the munitions industry in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (July 8, 1936, and August 21-22, 1936). That same year he emigrated to the United States. Nearly two thirds of the 330 emigre economists addressed in Hagemann's and Krohn's research project (1998) ended up in the United States.

Spiegel was a member of the cohort of emigre scholars who got their first academic training at German or Austrian universities but were still young enough and flexible enough to start all over again and obtain a second one in their new countries, typically the United States or the United Kingdom. Members of this group, including economists such as Richard A. Musgrave (born 1910), Sir Hans Singer (born 1910) and Wolfgang F. Stolper (born 1912), sometimes humorously refer to the fact that they have been "Emigrationsgewinner," meaning that despite all privations and problems of emigration - they were benefitting from "crossing traditions." Musgrave (1996, 1997) demonstrated how the German writers in the Finanzwisseschaft tradition benefitted from a broader perspective compared with the Anglo-Saxon public finance tradition. The English tradition developed as an integral part of standard economics and shared both its analytic rigor and its natural law bias. In Germany, the Anglo-Saxon approach was afforded a much less hospitable treatment than Finanzwissenschaft. The historical and administrative slant of the Fianzwissenschaft approach enjoyed high standing among the several branches of economics.

Development economics emerged as a new economics subdiscipline at the end of World War II. This development can be identified with the migration and resettlement of the emigre economists who made the most important contributions. Whereas only ten out of one hundred listed in Blaug's (1985) Great Economists Since Keynes came from Germany and Austria (all emigrated in the 1930s),(1) the percentage of emigre scholars among the pioneers of economic development is three times higher. Paul N. Rosenstein-Rodan (1902-1985) and Kurt Mandelbaum (Martin since 1947; 1904-1995) can be regarded as the "founding fathers." Albert O. Hirschman, H. W. Singer, Paul Streeten, and many others all made eminent contributions. This field was a virtual magnet for doctoral research during the 1950s.

Whereas the full story still has to be written, there are at least two reasons for this high concentration. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.