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The History of Economics
A Course for Students and Teachers

Roger E. Backhouse, Keith Tribe

£65.00 | $95.00
ISBN 9781911116691
£19.99 | $30.00
ISBN 9781911116707
320 pages | 240 x 171mm | November 2017


Roger Backhouse and Keith Tribe present a broad introduction to the history of economic thought based upon courses they have taught for many years. Its main purpose is to provide an overview for students and teachers who have not had the opportunity of taking a course in the subject.

The subject’s marginalization over the past thirty years and the attendant lack of trained specialists in the field has meant that there are very few courses currently available. This has presented practical challenges for those lecturers wishing to respond to the recent calls for a more historically-informed economics curriculum with a greater emphasis on the diversity of theories and approaches that have shaped the history of economic thought. This book seeks to address this problem. Written by two of the UK’s leading historians of economics, it seeks to provide both the necessary instruction for those who wish to study the subject alone, as well as provide a starting point for lecturers wanting to run courses but who lack the specialist knowledge to feel confident about designing a syllabus.

The book is presented as a series of twenty-four lectures, made up of two equal halves: the pre-twentieth-century period (from the later 1700s to the early 1900s), and from the early 1900s to the present. Each lecture presents an outline of aims, a select bibliography, a chronology, an overview of between 3,000 and 4,000 words, and questions for further study or reflection. An Introduction discusses different ways of approaching the subject, and guidance is also given about the ways in which shorter courses could be based on a subset of the 24 lectures.

Contemporary understanding of economic principles sheds little light on the manner in which past thinkers thought, so the student is provided with the much-needed context behind the development of ideas as well as being guided through the original writings of economists such as Smith, Jevons, Marshall, Robbins, Keynes and others. The emphasis is upon the broad developing stream of economic argument from the seventeenth century to the present, seeking to emphasise a diversity that is sometimes suppressed in more conventional textbooks, which tend to organise their histories into sequences of schools of thought.

With many years of experience teaching economic thought, the authors have honed their presentation to the needs of those with no previous background in the subject, without sacrificing analysis or rigour. The book will be warmly welcomed by student and teacher alike.


1. Commerce, wealth and power: the disputed foundations of the strength of a nation
2. Natural order, physiocracy and reform
3. Adam Smith I: outline of a project
4. Adam Smith II: the two texts
5. The political economy of Malthus and Ricardo
6. Political economy in continental Europe and the United States
7. Political economy, philosophic radicalism and John Stuart Mill
8. Popular political economy: List, Carey, Bastiat and George
9. Radical political economy: Marx and his sources
10. Marginalism and subjectivism: Jevons and Edgeworth
11. From political economy to economics
12. Alfred Marshall’s project
13. Microeconomics after Marshall
14. Monetary economics
15. The rise of mathematical economics, 1930-60
16. Robbins’s Essay and the definition of economics
17. John Maynard Keynes
18. Quantitative economics
19. The Keynesian revolution
20. Modern macroeconomics
21. Inflation and the Phillips curve
22. Popular economics
23. Economics and policy
24. Ideology and place

Author Information

Keith Tribe taught economics at Keele University in the 1980s and 1990s before taking early retirement in 2002. Since then he has continued to write, translate and teach. He is currently teaching the history of economics at the University of Birmingham. His books include Governing Economy (1988), Strategies of Economic Order (1995/2007) and The Economy of the Word (2015).

Roger E. Backhouse is Professor of the History and Philosophy of Economics at the University of Birmingham. His books include Transforming Modern Macroeconomics: The Search for Disequilibrium Microfoundations, 1956-2003 (with Mauro Boianovsky) (2013), Keynes: Capitalist Revolutionary (with Bradley W Bateman) (2011), The Puzzle of Modern Economics (2010) and The Penguin History of Economics (2002). He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2014.

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