In 1994, the Centre began a project on the Rise and Fall of Historical Political Economy in the 19th Century, supported by grants from the Leverhulme Trust and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. The object of the project was to explore the different European historical schools of political economy and the precedents or risks they may suggest for modern economics. Five principal themes were identified: i) the origins of historical political economy in the early nineteenth century critique of Smithian economics; ii) historical economics as a European phenomenon; iii) the idea of natural laws in political economy; iv) ideas of stages of development, and the conception of regularities of historical experience across countries, including a process of ‘transition’ which includes institutional, political and even psychological ‘development’; and v) economic nationalism.
The project is coordinated by Nancy Cartwright (LSE), Emma Rothschild and Gareth Stedman Jones. Roberto Romani was made Research Fellow at the Centre in connection with the project, and Erik Grimmer was appointed as research assistant for the programme. Jordi Cat and Thomas Uebel, research associates at the London School of Economics, worked with Nancy Cartwright on the programme.
The Centre established an exchange programme for scholars which is funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung in connection with the research programme.
In September 2001, a planning meeting was held on Against the Market? Changing Political Economy in Britain, c. 1780-2000 at King’s College, Cambridge. Participants included David Craig (University of Durham), Margot Finn (University of Warwick), Marc Stears (Emmanuel College, Cambridge), Gareth Stedman Jones, James Thompson (Bristol University), Adam Tooze (Faculty of History, Cambridge) and Jon Wilson (King’s College, London). Provisional ideas for a conference to be held in 2003 were discussed.
In February 1999, a meeting was held on The Rise and Fall of Historical Political Economy in the 19th Century at King’s College, Cambridge. There were presentations by Paul David (All Soul’s College, Oxford) on The Historical Evolution of Ahistorical Economics, and Richard Tuck (Harvard University) on Imperfect History of Perfect Competition, and comments by Emma Rothschild and Bertram Schefold (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität). Other participants included Erik Grimmer-Solem (Balliol College, Oxford), Simon Cook (Hebrew University), Roberto Romani and Gareth Stedman Jones.
A major conference on 19th Century Historical Political Economy was held on 2-3 October 1998 at King’s College, Cambridge. There were five sessions: Session I: Smith, Mill and the Nineteenth Century, with presentations made by Neil De Marchi (Duke University) on Putting Evidence in its Place: John Mill’s early struggles with history and Emma Rothschild on Smithianismus and Enlightenment in 19th Century Europe; Session II: The Historical Political Economy in England and Ireland, with presentations including Robert Collison Black (Queens University Belfast) on The Political Economy of T.E. Cliffe Leslie: a re-assessment, Roberto Romani on From the Gospel of Work to the Gospel of Relaxation: economics, national character, and the virtues of community and James Thompson (Jesus College, Cambridge) on The Reception of Lujo Brentano’s Thought in Britain, 1870-1900 ; Session III: Social Science and Social Policy, with presentations given by Erik Grimmer on The Fickle Servant of Progress: history and social reform in Germany, 1870-90, Heinrich Nau (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin) on Gustav Schmoller’s Historico-Ethical Political Economy: ethics, politics and economics in the Younger German Historical School, 1871-1914 and by Adam Tooze on The Crisis of Gelehrtenpolitik and the Alienated Economic Mind: economists and politics in inter-war Germany; Session IV: Economic Epistemology, with presentations given by Nancy Cartwright on Abstract and Concrete Knowledge: why the historical school should matter to how we do economic theory today and Thomas Uebel (University of Manchester) on Heterodox Neopositivism as a Response to the Methodenstreit; and Session V: Economic Rationality, included papers by Heath Pearson (Berkeley) on Homo Oeconomicus Goes Native and Keith Tribe (University of Keele) on The Genealogy of Neoclassicism. Several of the papers were published as Centre working papers. A number of the papers are being collected and edited to form a volume.
A colloquium took place on 5 December 1997 to continue discussions on the themes of the project. Papers presented at the meeting included Hinnerk Bruhns (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) on Economists Reading Max Weber, Erik Grimmer and Roberto Romani on Deconstructing the Historical School of Economics, 1870-1900; Heinrich Nau (Frankfurt University) on Gustav Schmoller and the Concept of "historisch-ethische Nationalökonomie", and by Philippe Steiner (École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay) on Durkheim's Sociology, Simiand's Positive Economics and the German Historical School. Other participants included Friedrich Lenger (Eberhard Karls Universität) and Keith Tribe.
In 1996 research trips were organised in Berlin and Stuttgart for Erik Grimmer, Paul Warde (Pembroke College, Cambridge) and Adam Tooze to carry out their research. Erik Grimmer worked on the Schmoller and Althoff papers. Paul Warde went to Stuttgart in connection with preliminary investigation of archival material concerning his thesis on the economic and ecological history of Württemberg. Adam Tooze travelled to Stuttgart to carry out research concerning the dissolution of the paradigm of historical economics in the aftermath of World War I.
Papers prepared in connection with the project include: Putting evidence in its place: John Mill's early struggles with history by Neil De Marchi; Smithianismus and Enlightenment in 19th Century Europe by Emma Rothschild; In Search of Full Empirical Reality: Historical Political Economy, 1870-1900 by Erik Grimmer-Solem and Roberto Romani; The Reception of Lujo Brentano's Thought in Britain, 1870-1900 by James Thompson; Homo Oeconomicus goes native by Heath Pearson; Durkheim's Sociology, Simiand's Positive Political Economics and the German Historical School by Philippe Steiner; Max Weber mediating between the historical school and the school of theoretical economy by Wolfgang J. Mommsen; Abstract and Concrete Knowledge: Why the historical school should matter to how we do economics today by Nancy Cartwright and Jordi Cat; Heterodox neopositivism as a response to the Methodenstreit by Thomas Uebel; The imperfect history of perfect competition by Richard Tuck; The crisis of Gelehrtenpolitik and the alienated economic mind: economists and politics in inter-war Germany by Adam Tooze and The afterglow of the German historical school by Bertram Schefold.
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