Economic History

Economic history
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Economy: concept and history
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This article is about the academic field. For historical events, see Economic history of the world.
For changes in economic ideas, see History of economic thought.
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Economy: concept and history
Business and Economics Portal

Economic history is the study of economies or economic phenomena in the past. Analysis in economic history is undertaken using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and by applying economic theory to historical situations and institutions. The topic includes business history, financial history and overlaps with areas of social history such as demographic history and labor history. Quantitative (econometric) economic history is also referred to as cliometrics.[1]

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Treating economic history as a discrete academic discipline has been a contentious issue for many years. Academics at the London School of Economics and the University of Cambridge had numerous disputes over the separation of economics and economic theory in the interwar era. Cambridge economists believed that pure economics involved a component of economic history and that the two were inseparably entangled. Those at the LSE believed that economic history warranted its own courses, research agenda and academic chair separated from mainstream economics.

In the initial period of the subject's development, the LSE position of separating economic history from economics won out. Many universities in the UK developed independent programmes in economic history rooted in the LSE model. Indeed, the Economic History Society had its inauguration at LSE in 1926 and the University of Cambridge eventually established its own economic history programme. However, the past twenty years have witnessed the widespread closure of these separate programmes in the UK and the integration of the discipline into either history or economics departments. Only the LSE and the University of Glasgow retain separate economic history departments and stand-alone undergraduate and graduate programmes in economic history. The University of Warwick now has the greatest number of economic historians working in an economics department anywhere in the UK, but has virtually no PhD students specialising in the subject. The LSE, Glasgow and the University of Oxford together train the vast majority of economic historians coming through the British higher education system.

In the US, economic history has for a long time been regarded as a form of applied economics. As a consequence, there are no specialist economic history graduate programmes at any mainstream university anywhere in the country. Instead economic history is taught as a special field component of regular economics PhD programmes in some places, including at University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, and Yale University.


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