Search This Blog

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Worldly history

Yesterday's New York Times carried an obituary for Robert Heilbroner, author of The Worldly Philsophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers. Currently in its seventh edition, the book has been in print continuously since 1953. What an amazing achievement (not to mention that he wrote it as a twerp, academically speaking).

Teaching "worldly history"--that is, the history of capitalism or any of the subfields that compose it: business, economic, political economic, technological, etc. history--is always a challenge because most students who are attracted to history gravitate to social, political, or cultural history and are put off by anything smacking of the "economic." This semester I will be teaching a comparative history seminar on the U.S. and German political economies since the 1870s. I'm using Heilbroner's Worldly Philosophers as one of the course's foundation stones in hopes that it will get the students past their fears of the economic and give them a basic knowledge of the historical range of perspectives on economic change before we delve into the details of the U.S. and German political economies.

The seminar should be a lot of fun since the U.S. and Germany, industrial upstarts that they were, looked more similar than different in the 1870s but ended up in our own time as exemplars of opposing models of capitalism (liberal vs. coordinated market economies--see, for example, Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism).

1 comment:

Steve said...

Thanks for the information on this one. Prof. Heilbroner's book was the first economics book I ever read. Great book, great man.