The History of Economic Thought
Online ISSN : 1884-7358
Print ISSN : 1880-3164
ISSN-L : 1880-3164
The Formation of the History of Economic Thought Studies in Britain, 1870s―1920s
Tamotsu Nishizawa
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JOURNALS OPEN ACCESS

2015 Volume 57 Issue 1 Pages 25-50

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Abstract: This paper examines the history of economic thought studies in Britain in the age of neoclas-sical and historical economics from 1870 to 1914 (and thereafter). The historicism and his-torical methods of this age appeared to be behind not only the making of economic history but also the formation of history of economic thought studies. Economic history, after taking off in the last quarter of the 19th century largely because of the foundation of the English his-torical school, formation of the Economic History Society presided by W. J. Ashley, and issue of the Economic History Review in 1927, is institutionally separated from the Royal Econom-ic Society. What was the history of economic thought?   In the decline and fall of English classical political economy, a new cohort of econo-mists such as Cliffe Leslie, Ingram, Bagehot, and Jevons asserted themselves. They opposed the methods of the classical school, particularly Ricardoʼs economic reasoning, and their un-orthodox literary review sought the free examination of new opinions and theories. Bagehotʼs Postulates was “a landmark in the history of economics,” Jevons was “the first of the distin-guished tribe of economic bibliomaniacs,” and Foxwell first caught the affliction and then made economic library with the “most splendid” work ever to be collected. The rise of a new cohort of economists and the activities and works of Jevons and Foxwell were the founda-tions of the history of economic thought. Jevons “discovered” Cantillonʼs Essai and Higgs conducted studies of Cantillon and Physiocrats, while Jevons wrote a history of mathematical economics and utility theory. Foxwellʼs collection of economic literature provided a thor-oughly historical edition of the Wealth of Nations. This was completed by Cannan, preceded and helped by Bonarʼs Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith as well as John Raeʼs Life of Adam Smith. Bonar also wrote two books on Malthus.   Toynbeeʼs Industrial Revolution, economic history integrated with the history of eco-nomic thought, generated a “reformist” group of economic and social historians. Ingramʼs History of Political Economy was a systematic study from a Comteian perspective; he was a leader among a group of men who successfully introduced humanitarianism into political economy or economics. Marshall was among them, and economic history and the history of economic thought were someway integrated into his economics. However, with the profes-sionalization and institutionalization of economics and economic history, the boundaries be-tween the disciplines of economics and economic history began to be marginalized and the history of economic thought became peripheral to both. JEL classification numbers: B13, B15.

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