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Economics and the Historian

Thomas G. Rawski

Publication Year: 1996

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.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

...This volume evolved from papers and discussion at a workshop and conference, Economic Methods for Chinese Historical Research, sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Science Foundation and held in Honolulu, Hawaii in January 1987 and Oracle, Arizona in January 1988. In the 1987 workshop, a number of economists who specialize in economic history presented seminars on broad subjects...

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Economics and the Historian

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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...

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Issues in the Study of Economic Trends

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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...

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Institutions and Economic Analysis

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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...

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Labor Economics and the Historian

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pp. 85-121

...Ah! I couldn't agree with you more. I'm coming to believe that your negative opinion of economics may stem from a misunderstanding of the nature of our models and of their relation to the custom, institutions, social norms, and political power that figure so prominently in the stories historians tell. Economics—at least when it's being done well—is keenly concerned with these larger issues...

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The Economics of Choice: Neoclassical Supply and Demand

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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...

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Macroeconomics: An Introduction for Historians

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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. M/croeconomics 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 rice1 or analyzing the effect of...

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Money, Banking, and Inflation: An Introduction for Historians

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pp. 177-208

...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 search the kingdom for someone who makes shoes and needs a chair. Instead, our furnituremaker can sell chairs for money to...

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International Economics and the Historian

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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...

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Suggestions for Readings and How to Approach Them

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pp. 239-244

...and Newman 1987) can serve as helpful sources of information on specific topics. Hawke 1980 is directed specifically toward historians. You might usefully refer to a standard introductory volume like Samuelson and Nordhaus 1985 or Stiglitz 1993 and to intermediate-level texts in microeconomics (e.g., McCloskey 19853; Milgrom and Roberts 1992) and macroeconomics...

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Some Advice to the Reader

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pp. 245-252

...As you deepen your acquaintance with economics, some advice about ways of approaching the "dismal science" may be useful. Economics is above all a way of thinking. It comes complete with its own assumptions and language. Indeed, learning economics has much in common...


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pp. 253-278


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pp. 279-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780520910867
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520072695

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 1996