Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Tübingen Economics Department: a long-term Prosopography (1817-2010)

Svorencik Andrej, University of Mannheim

Part of the session: Quantitative Histories of Economics. // Prosopography, or less accurately collective biography, is an established historiographical method with a long history and development outside HET. The method is based on the collection and analysis of shared biographical features of a group of people from a specific, well-defined historical or social context. Prosopography is both the collection as well as the analysis of such biographical data. It goes beyond a mere systematic compilation of biographical data about people of interest according to some pre-determined criteria. It is the study of biographical details of individuals in aggregate, not a biography of groups. // Prosopography is particularly well suited for identifying hierarchies or relationships that remain hidden and elusive when the focus is on the most prominent members of a group. Furthermore, it allows us to eschew the traditional view of the history of economics as a succession of great minds and seminal ideas. // Given the explosion in the number of economists with a PhD in economics and the resulting unprecedented growth of the discipline, there have been thousands of economists within and (especially) outside of academe that have been largely left out from narratives that have solely focused on a visible/notable few. // For instance, the oldest economics department in Germany was established at the University of Tübingen in 1817. Until 2010 it produced 2256 PhDs. Capitalizing on a unique dataset of these graduates and Tübingen economics professors, I analyze their social, economic, demographic and ethnic background and categorize their typical career trajectories. This allows to shed light on the nature and evolution of an intergenerational network of economists within the department. With a coverage of two centuries, I produce a first long-term prosopography of its kinds in history of economics literature and provide a fresh (albeit limited) perspective on the development of economics in Germany. Thereby I show the advantages and limitations of prosopography as a still novel historiographic method in the field of history of economics.

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Keywords: prosopography, Tübingen economics department, German economic thought, career trajectories