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Economics and the Historian

Economics and the Historian

Thomas G. Rawski
Susan B. Carter
Jon S. Cohen
Stephen Cullenberg
Peter H. Lindert
Donald N. McCloskey
Hugh Rockoff
Richard Sutch
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Economics and the Historian
    Book Description:

    These essays provide a thorough introduction to economics for historians. The authors, all eminent scholars, show how to use economic thinking, economic models, and economic methods to enrich historical research. They examine such vital issues as long-term trends, institutions, labor—including an engaging dialogue between a labor historian and a labor economist—international affairs, and money and banking. Scholars and teachers of history will welcome this volume as an introduction and guide to economics, a springboard for their own research, and a lively and provocative source of collateral reading for students at every level. The combined research experience of these authors encompasses many varieties of economics and covers a kaleidoscopic array of nations, subjects, and time periods. All are expert in presenting the insights and complexities of economics to nonspecialist audiences.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91086-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Economics and the Historian
    (pp. 1-14)

    We aim to broaden and deepen the exchange of ideas between economists and historians. Our specific purpose is to show how to apply the core ideas and methods of economics to a wide range of historical issues.

    Historians who neglect economics can lose sight of factors that affect every historical situation. Saints and sinners, elites and masses, rich and poor—all require food, clothing, and shelter. Even if man does not live by bread alone, economics lurks beneath the surface of any historical inquiry. The economist who hesitates to peek outside the confines of his models can overlook cultural influences...

  7. Issues in the Study of Economic Trends
    (pp. 15-59)

    Investigation of economic trends occupies an important position in historical research. Did prices or output of particular commodities or services or broad aggregates rise, fall, or remain constant over various periods? Can we detect substantial change in levels of economic welfare, distribution of income and wealth, degree of commercialization, patterns of cropping, organization of economic activity, or significance and functioning of various economic institutions? Answers to these questions and many others involve systematic study of economic trends. Attempts to ascertain the presence and determine the direction and magnitude of economic trends call for certain procedures and encounter characteristic difficulties that...

  8. Institutions and Economic Analysis
    (pp. 60-84)

    To the economist, institutions represent efficient ways of organizing human activity where markets alone will not suffice. To understand why institutions are often required to supplement or even replace markets, it is necessary to begin with a brief sketch of two abstract models of how a decentralized market economy works, one the general competitive equilibrium, the other Marxian. The sketches are not intended to provide complete representations of the two but merely to highlight those features of each that relate to institutions. For the purposes of this analysis, institutions are broadly defined as those commonplace organizations such as households, farms,...

  9. Labor Economics and the Historian
    (pp. 85-121)

    Clio and Hades, two erudite and eminent professors of History and Economics., respectively, often discuss the relative merits of their disciplines over coffee. We transcribed, annotated, and added references to one such conversation and present it here

    Clio: I just finished reading Alice Kessler-Harris’sA Woman’s Wage(1990). Very satisfying, I thought. She develops a historical perspective on the modern campaign for Comparable Worth, setting forth a view I have always found appealing. She argues that social norms are the key determinant in wage setting.

    Hades: Gasp! That’s quite a bit different from the view of most economists. As it...

  10. The Economics of Choice: Neoclassical Supply and Demand
    (pp. 122-158)

    A century ago the English economist Alfred Marshall began his exposition of what is now called neoclassical economics with a definition: economics, he said, is the study of humankind in the ordinary business of life. The definition covers the non-neoclassical approaches, too—Marxist, Austrian, Gandhian, institutionalist. All these are part of the conversation of economics since the seventeenth century about the business of humankind. Marx was a follower of David Ricardo, who was in turn a follower of Smith. Marshall himself and the neoclassicals are another branch of this tree, the dominant branch in modern economics.

    The specifically neoclassical definition,...

  11. Macroeconomics: An Introduction for Historians
    (pp. 159-176)

    Anyone who has made the acquaintance of the science of economics knows she has; two faces. Each expresses its own personality. We call them microeconomics and macroeconomics.Microeconomics examines economic behavior in a small part or small sector of the economy isolated from the larger whole. Describing how prices are determined in the market for rice or analyzing the effect of a tax on the work effort of artisans are illustrative microeconomic topics.Macroeconomics, by contrast, is the study of the economy as an entity, as a complete functioning system of economic institutions. Establishing what determines the total quantity of...

  12. Money, Banking, and Inflation: An Introduction for Historians
    (pp. 177-208)

    I begin not at the very beginning, when a commodity such as cattle or salt served as money;² nor even at some fairly advanced stage when merchants measured prices by weights of gold.³ Instead I pick up the thread in medieval times. There already exists a dominant form of money: gold coins minted by the king.⁴ This system, of course, adds greatly to the wealth of the kingdom for reasons that economists have talked about for generations. Money “separates the act of purchase from the act of sale.” An artisan who makes furniture and needs shoes does not have to...

  13. International Economics and the Historian
    (pp. 209-238)

    The international side of economics often looks like unpromising reading for the historian. Jargon, diagrams, and math abound, obscuring any clear view of issues worth debating. It need not be so. International economics is no more imposing a discipline than the rest of economics. In fact, it offers a particular advantage to those historians who are excited by, and versed in, international history. They have the comparative perspective, the sense of political forces, and the long view that elude many international economists imprisoned by offer curves and sterile theorems. The opportunity to combine international economics and history is still rarely...

  14. Suggestions for Readings and How to Approach Them
    (pp. 239-244)
  15. Some Advice to the Reader
    (pp. 245-252)
  16. References
    (pp. 253-278)
  17. Index
    (pp. 279-297)