Economic history

Economic history is the study of economies or economic phenomena of the past. Analysis in economic history is undertaken using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and the application of economic theory to historical situations and institutions. The topic includes financial and business history and overlaps with areas of social history such as demographic and labor history. The quantitative—in this case, econometric—study of economic history is also known as cliometrics. [1]

Development as a separate field

In Germany in the late 19th century, scholars in a number of universities, led by Gustav von Schmoller, developed the historical school of economic history. It ignored quantitative and mathematical approaches. Historical approach dominated German and French scholarship for most of the 20th century. The approach was spread to Great Britain by William Ashley, 1860–1927, and dominated British economic history for much of the 20th century. Britain's first professor in the subject was George Unwin at the University of Manchester). [2] [3] In France, economic history was heavily influenced by the Annales School from the early 20th century to the present. It exerts a worldwide influence through its Journal Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales. [4]

Treating economic history as a discrete academic discipline has been a contentious issue for many years. Academics at the London School of Economics and the University of Cambridge had numerous disputes over the separation of economics and economic history in the interwar era. Cambridge economists believed that pure economics involved a component of economic history and that the two were inseparably entangled. Those at the LSE believed that economic history warranted its own courses, research agenda and academic chair separated from mainstream economics.

In the initial period of the subject's development, the LSE position of separating economic history from economics won out. Many universities in the UK developed independent programmes in economic history rooted in the LSE model. Indeed, the Economic History Society had its inauguration at LSE in 1926 and the University of Cambridge eventually established its own economic history programme. However, the past twenty years have witnessed the widespread closure of these separate programmes in the UK and the integration of the discipline into either history or economics departments. Only the LSE retains a separate economic history department and stand-alone undergraduate and graduate programme in economic history. Cambridge, Glasgow, the LSE and Oxford together train the vast majority of economic historians coming through the British higher education system today.

United States

Meanwhile, in the US, the field of economic history has in recent decades been largely subsumed into other fields of economics and is seen as a form of applied economics. As a consequence, there are no specialist economic history graduate programs at any universities anywhere in the country. Economic history remains as a special field component of regular economics or history PhD programs in universities including at University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, Northwestern University and Yale University.

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