From Riches to Rags? Economic History Becomes History at the Faculty of Economics

Ashwani Saith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This traverse through the rich career and contributions of the economic historians, first in the Department of Applied Economics and subsequently in the Faculty of Economics, serves to highlight the wide interface and intrinsic value embodied in the intertwining of discourses on economic theory, economic history and economic policy through facilitating border-crossings between disciplines, methods and divergent spatial and temporal contexts. Certainly, and at the least, for the heterodox lineages of Cambridge economics, the presence of economic history and economic historians in the Faculty represented a constant marker of the discontinuities and disequilibrium inherent in historical processes, of time being history, and of Joan’s binary, “history versus equilibrium”, or in Kaldor’s pithy dismissal of neoclassicism, “the irrelevance of equilibrium economics”. Also investigated are the potential links, whether positive, antagonistic or just missing, in the interactions between the practice of economic history in Faculty of Economics, and in parallel in the Faculty of History—in specific, through the bridging position of the professorship in economic history formally located in the latter. On the side of Economics, the path of economic history reveals an inverted U-curve the apogee of which is marked by the foundational work of the historical statisticians in the DAE, after which that interest wanes, while additional tracks of research evolve, including significantly one on the gendered study of industrial revolutions, and another continuing in the wake of the DAE’s applied macro-Keynesian tradition. However, well over a century after the time when Alfred Marshall had worked hard to wean the rising discipline of Economics away from History and from Moral Sciences, the study of economic history, with all the vicissitudes en route in its trajectory, has arrived at a point where the Faculty of Economics has scarcely any economic historian left standing in its ranks. By a combination of default and design, neoclassical economics seems to have achieved the agenda of the founder of its tradition in Cambridge, at least for the time being.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Cambridge Economics in the Post-Keynesian Era
Subtitle of host publicationThe Eclipse of Heterodox Traditions
Number of pages120
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2022

Publication series

SeriesPalgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


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