Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Five Decades Of History of Political Economy: A Historiographic Study

Giraud Yann, University of Cergy-Pontoise

Newcomers to the history of economics are often exposed to several texts that try to define the subject, make a case for its usefulness and present the various methods one can use to establish historical claims. Such pieces introduce a number of methodological divides, for instance the standard dichotomy between rational and historical reconstructions. Most of the time, authors of such pieces disclose their historiographic preferences and provide a rationale for them, pointing to the pitfalls of the methods they feel should be rejected. They may also address the issue of current economists’ lack of attention to their past, and accordingly offer their views on how historians of economics could strive to regain that lost attention or advocate the alternative strategy of addressing other audiences. These contributions, however, leave one question unaddressed: that of how history of economics has changed over time. My aim in this paper is to use the fiftieth anniversary of History of Political Economy (HOPE) as an opportunity to reflect on that question. I survey articles published in HOPE in order to reconstruct historiographic changes. This paper has one central theme, which is that HOPE has always been more pluralistic than current members of the profession, who often see the journal as a stronghold for the historical reconstruction method, seem to acknowledge: while some individuals or groups of individuals have suggested bolder inflections for the field over the years, their attempts, while sparking debates and, at times, controversies, have had limited effect on a vast portion of the journal’s content, hinting at the inability to engage the larger community of historians of economics in adopting these new approaches.


Keywords: History of Political Economy, Communities in the History of Economics, Historiography of Economics, Methodology of the History of Economic Thought

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