Economics and the Historian.
Economics and the Historian "seeks to bridge the gap that separates historical researchers from the insights of economics" [p. 4] by introducing historians to the ideas and methods of economists. Thomas G. Rawski, Professor of Economics and History at the University of Pittsburgh and the organizing force behind the cooperative venture, introduces the volume's seven essays with a discussion of the ways economics can contribute to historical research. Rawski, whose own research examines economic growth in China, argues that the study of economic trends is an important part of any historical analysis of change. Thus, historians need to be familiar with definitions of basic economic terms and to understand the nature of categories such as national income and product accounts National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) use double-entry accounting to report the monetary value and sources of output produced in a country and the distribution of incomes that production generates. Data are available at the national and industry level. . Using tables on the estimates of Chinese rice output, he explains how to scrutinize quantitative evidence and to employ it to support assumptions derived from qualitative sources.
Jon Cohen, a Professor of Economics at the University of Toronto Research at the University of Toronto has been responsible for the world's first electronic heart pacemaker, artificial larynx, single-lung transplant, nerve transplant, artificial pancreas, chemical laser, G-suit, the first practical electron microscope, the first cloning of T-cells, , stresses the importance of institutions (e.g., households, farms, and firms) in economic analysis and historical development. "To the economist, institutions represent efficient ways of organizing human activity where markets alone will not suffice" [p. 60]. People turn to institutions because they find that they perform the tasks of allocating and/or distributing better than markets. Cohen cohen
(Hebrew: “priest”) Jewish priest descended from Zadok (a descendant of Aaron), priest at the First Temple of Jerusalem. The biblical priesthood was hereditary and male. contends that a knowledge of economic institutions can help explain such historical questions as why sharecropping sharecropping, system of farm tenancy once common in some parts of the United States. In the United States the institution arose at the end of the Civil War out of the plantation system. Many planters had ample land but little money for wages. and not wage labor-contracts characterized the economy of the U.S. South after the Civil War and why nineteenth-century French peasants preferred small family farms to larger, agribusinesses. Agrarian institutions "which many dismiss as economically inefficient or irrational, may represent perfectly rational attempts by farm folk to resolve problems that markets cannot" [p. 71]. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , there are often very good economic reasons to explain historical patterns of behavior.
Using the form of a dialogue between Clio, the muse of history, and Hades Hades (hā`dēz), in Greek and Roman religion and mythology.
1 The ruler of the underworld: see Pluto.
2 The world of the dead, ruled by Pluto and Persephone, located either underground or in the far west beyond the , the Greek god of the underworld and dispenser of "earthly riches" [p. 85n], Susan B. Carter, Professor of Economics, and Stephen Cullenberg, Associate Professor of Economics, both at the University of California, Riverside The University of California, Riverside, commonly known as UCR or UC Riverside, is a public research university and one of ten campuses of the University of California system. , discuss the relative merits of historical and economic approaches to the labor market labor market A place where labor is exchanged for wages; an LM is defined by geography, education and technical expertise, occupation, licensure or certification requirements, and job experience . Although their dialogue is rather strained (it is hard to imagine this conversation taking place over coffee as envisioned), it enables them to cover a myriad of economic terms and models dealing with the labor market. Hades asserts that an understanding of the laws of supply and demand, the labor demand and supply curves, price elasticity, and rational economic behavior will help Clio analyze historical developments such as the gender wage gap, regional differences in the spread of slavery, and the westward migration of labor.
Hugh Rockoff, a Professor of Economics at Rutgers University, similarly employs the story of a mythical kingdom to familiarize historians with basic monetary terminology and theory. Seigniorage seigniorage
Charge over and above the expenses of coinage that is deducted from the bullion brought to a mint to be coined. From early times, coinage was the prerogative of kings, who prescribed the amount they were to receive as seigniorage. , debasement Debasement
1. To lower the value, quality or status of something or someone.
2. To lower the value (of a coin) by adding metal of inferior value.
In other words, debasement is the degrading of the value of something or character of someone. , the quantity theory of money, the Fisher effect Fisher Effect
A theory describing the long-run relationship between inflation and interest rates.
This equation tells us that, all things being equal, a rise in a country's expected inflation rate will eventually cause an equal rise in the interest rate (and vice , hyperinflation Hyperinflation
Extremely rapid or out of control inflation.
There is no precise numerical definition to hyperinflation. This is a situation where price increases are so out of control that the concept of inflation is meaningless. , the Phillips curve, etc., are all discussed in the context of their impact on this fictitious polity. Mercifully, Rockoff does not expect his neophytes to employ monetary theory in their historical analyses; rather, he encourages historians to begin a dialogue with economists about the "why and when" of monetary policies.
In an essay extolling the value of a macroeconomic mac·ro·ec·o·nom·ics
n. (used with a sing. verb)
The study of the overall aspects and workings of a national economy, such as income, output, and the interrelationship among diverse economic sectors. rather than a microeconomic mi·cro·ec·o·nom·ics
n. (used with a sing. verb)
The study of the operations of the components of a national economy, such as individual firms, households, and consumers. approach, Richard Sutch, Professor of Economics and History at the University of California, Berkeley The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university located in Berkeley, California, United States. Commonly referred to as UC Berkeley, Berkeley and Cal , examines historical explanations for the slow growth of the Southern U.S. economy in the century after 1870. Whereas a micro-economic analysis based on diaries and personal accounts might concentrate on the devastation caused by Sherman's army, a macroeconomic one would consider wider developments such as "flawed institutions, racism, and factor immobilities" [p. 175] as more important.
Neoclassical economics can also provide useful explanatory models according to Donald N. McCloskey, Professor of History and Economics at the University of Iowa Not to be confused with Iowa State University.
The first faculty offered instruction at the University in March 1855 to students in the Old Mechanics Building, situated where Seashore Hall is now. In September 1855, the student body numbered 124, of which, 41 were women. . McCloskey contends that the consideration of "choice under constraint" [p. 123] would not only expand the historical narrative but would also change the language of the account. The historian "would tell stories of failure by recourse to unprofitability more than to cultural flaws; she would replace metaphors of 'growth' with metaphors of 'profitability' and 'entry' . . . she would make use of the fruitful if deterministic myth of efficiency to explain how institutions arose" [p. 138].
The final essay by Peter H. Lindert, Professor of Economics and Director of the Agricultural History Center at the University of California, Davis The University of California, Davis, commonly known as UC Davis, is one of the ten campuses of the University of California, and was established as the University Farm in 1905. , focuses on the mutual benefit historians and economists can derive from combining the perspectives and methods of their disciplines. In his own work on international economics, Lindert finds that "economists do a poorer job of charting the cause of policies (and institutions) than in charting their economic consequences" [p. 237], and historical approaches may provide economists with a better understanding of the former while economic approaches may provide historians with a clearer explanation of the latter.
The volume's use of illustrations from various eras and regions is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, it is difficult to use generalist works as this in a history curriculum characterized by geographical and chronological divisions. On the other hand, the diversity of regions and time periods examined make the book attractive for use in a historiography and/or methodology course. The fact that several authors have joint appointments in history and economics means they are aware of disciplinary prejudices and suspicions, and, as a consequence, they confront these directly in their narratives. There are a few minor factual errors such as the statement that the "chief tenets of economics are . . . rooted in the writings of practical Englishmen [my emphasis]" such as "Adam Smith" [p. 245]. Historians with their sensitivity to national boundaries and ethnic differences know that Scots are British but never English!
In order to encourage historians at all levels to employ economic theory and methodology, the authors include eight pages of "Some Advice to the Reader," five pages of "Suggestions for Readings and How to Approach Them," and twenty-five pages of "References." Despite these efforts, Economics and the Historian remains a "hard read." Most undergraduates, and perhaps even some professional historians, will be turned off by the disciplinary lexicon: as one student told me, "If I wanted jargon, I would have gone into political science." Contributors' efforts to incorporate a wide variety of economic concepts and approaches have resulted in essays which come perilously close to textbook chapters. Ironically, in their attempt to appeal to historians, the authors have failed to do what historians do best - tell a good story. Economics and the Historian is a good source book for the newly converted; on its own, the work will inspire few conversions.
Amy Thompson McCandless College of Charleston The College of Charleston (CofC) is a public university located in historic downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The College was founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, making it the oldest college or university in South Carolina, the 13th oldest institution of higher learning in