Economists in Cambridge

The project explores the economists who worked at the University of Cambridge during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

 

  • PURPOSE
    In economics, "The Cambridge School" has taken on a great number of meanings. It has been used to refer to the circle of influence surrounding Alfred Marshall and in reference to the so-called Cambridge Equation relating to money demand. It has also referred to John Maynard Keynes and his protégés, despite the fact that many affiliated with economics at Cambridge took great pains to prevent the spread of Keynesianism.

    Still, the idea of a "Cambridge School," just like a "Chicago School" or "Austrian School," has persisted and gained common currency. This project seeks to investigate what the "Cambridge School" meant. The graphs that constitute the project explore the many ways in which economists working in and around Cambridge between 1900 and 1950 connected with and related to each other. Presented in a bold visual way, the data might suggest natural boundaries of a school of thought. They certainly show major areas of commonality as well as ways in which economists working in Cambridge differed in opinions, interests, and social circles. The data should provoke us to ask new questions. Why, for instance, were so many Cambridge economists pacifists? Was the economics of these pacifists related in some other way? Why were some colleges loci of particular strains of economics? What was the role of connections outside England in economic thinking at Cambridge?

    The project is intended to provoke new ways of thinking about and investigating a subject that has received a good deal of historical attention in the past. It is also, however, intended to help people better understand that material in more traditional ways. There were hundreds of people working on economic topics at Cambridge between 1900 and 1950. Each person had personal, professional, and intellectual relationships with Cambridge colleagues. It seems almost impossible to keep the nature and valence of each and every one of these relationships in one's head at once. One might imagine that even Alan Turing, who was a close friend of D.G. Champernowne and who would handily trounce A.C. Pigou at chess on occasion, would have difficulty processing all the data. There is a value, therefore, in having all of this information in a visual, searchable format – an online reference of connections.


  • SCOPE AND SOURCES
    The following set of graphs show the connections between 136 individuals. These individuals fall into three categories.

    1. 1. People who had an appointment in Economics between 1900 and 1950 either at a faculty of the University of Cambridge or a Cambridge college.
    2. 2. People who were examiners for the Tripos, Cambridge's final exam, in Economics between those dates.
    3. 3. People who delivered the Alfred Marshall Memorial Lectures (a series of lectures hosted by the Economics Faculty) between those dates.

    While the people who are displayed have been chosen on the basis of strict temporal criteria, the connections that are displayed are not limited to any particular timeframe. They represent all of the connections forged over the lifetimes of the individuals involved, providing a more complete reference guide to a "school" that underwent a rapid and dramatic evolution. It is expected that time-slices will be developed to further investigate this development.

    We believe that we have collected a comprehensive list of the individuals meeting one or more of these criteria using two reliable sources. The first is the lists of University Officer Appointments published every decade in the Historical Register Supplement volumes. All of this data has been put online and is searchable at http://venn.csi.cam.ac.uk/ACAD/lists/index.html. It is also consultable at the Rare Books Room of the University Library (classmark Cam.d.1.4.1). The second source, for information related to college appointments, is the collection of Cambridge University Calendars, published every year. The volume for each year during the timeframe of 1900-1950 has been consulted in the Rare Books Room of the Cambridge University Library. The classmark for the series is Cam.d.1.1.

    Secondary information has come from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and from the following:

    Ambrosi, Gerhard Michael. Keynes, Pigou and Cambridge Keynesians: Authenticity and Analytical Perspective in the Keynes-Classics Debate. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
    Annan, Noel Gilroy. Our Age: English Intellectuals Between the World Wars -- A Group Portrait. New York: Random House, 1990.
    Aslanbeigui, Nahid and Oakes, Guy. The Provocative Joan Robinson. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009.
    Backhouse, Roger. 'Sidgwick, Marshall, and the Cambridge School of Economics.' History of Political Economy 38, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 15 –44.
    Backhouse, Roger, and Tamotsu Nishizawa. No Wealth but Life: Welfare Economics and the Welfare State in Britain, 1880-1945. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
    "A Brief History of the Faculty." Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge. http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/about/history/
    The Cambridge University Calendar. Cambridge: Printed by Benjamin Flower, for W. Page, 1899-1951.
    Bridel, Pascal and Ingrao, Bruna. 'Managing Cambridge Economics: The Correspondence between Keynes and Pigou' in Maria Cristina Marcuzzo and Annalisa Rosselli, eds. Economists in Cambridge: A Study through their Correspondence, 1907-1946. New York: Routledge, 2005: 149-173.
    Groenewegen, Peter. A Soaring Eagle: Alfred Marshall, 1842-1924. Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1995.
    Hamouda, O.F. John R. Hicks: The Economist's Economist. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.
    Harcourt, G. C. 'The Cambridge Controversies: Old Ways and New Horizons-Or Dead End?' Oxford Economic Papers 28, no. 1. New Series (March 1, 1976): 25–65.
    Harrod, R.F. "An Essay in Dynamic Theory." The Economic Journal 49 n. 193 (1939): 14-33.
    ———. The Life of John Maynard Keynes. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951.
    Hicks, John. "Recollections and Documents," Economica 4 no. 157 (February 1973): 4.
    Henderson, H.D. "Marjorie Eve Robinson." The Economic Journal 50 n. 197 (March 1940): 161-2.
    The Historical Register of the University of Cambridge: Being a Supplement to the Calendar with a Record of University Offices, Honours and Distinctions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910-1960.
    Howson, Susan and Winch, David. The Economic Advisory Council 1930-1939. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
     "J.L. Cohen." The Economic Journal 51 n. 201 (April 1941): 157. Kahn, R.F. "The Relation of Home Investment to Unemployment." The Economic Journal 41 n. 162 (June 1931): 173-198.
    King, John E. Nicholas Kaldor. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
    M.W.F. and P.M. "Obituary: Professor Sir Michael Moissey Postan, 1899-1981." The Economic History Review 35 n. 1 (February 1982): iv-vi.
    O'Reilly, William. "Genealogies of Atlantic History," Atlantic Studies 1 n. 1 (2004): 66-84.
    Lawlor, Michael S, and John Maynard Keynes. The Economics of Keynes in Historical Context: an Intellectual History of the General Theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
    Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com. 
     "Professor Douglas Knoop," University of Sheffield Department of Economics, http://www.shef.ac.uk/economics/events/knoop/about.
    Robinson, Joan. The Accumulation of Capital. London: Macmillan, 1956.
    Rousseas, Stephen William. Post Keynesian Monetary Economics. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1992.
    Schumpeter, Elizabeth Boody, and Joseph Alois Schumpeter. History of Economic Analysis. London: Allen & Unwin, 1954.
    Skidelsky, Robert Jacob Alexander. John Maynard Keynes: a Biography. London: Macmillan, 1983.
    ———. John Maynard Keynes: The Economist as Saviour, 1920-1937. London: Macmillan, 1992.
    Whittaker, David J. Fighter for Peace: Philip Noel-Baker 1889-1982. York: Sesssions, 1989.
    Winch, Donald. Wealth and Life: Essays on the Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1848-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
    Wood, Geoffrey. "Obituary: E.V. Morgan," The Independent. April 5, 1996.


  • SUBJECTIVITY
    Though the initial scope of the project is finite and fairly easily defined, much of the data used has been included on grounds that are less clear. Though it is the ambition of this project to provide an authoritative map of the relationships between Cambridge economists, it is hard to imagine any such resource that is wholly impersonal, entirely objective, or devoid of biases.

    Most of the nodes (or dots that appear in the graphs) represent fairly concrete entities. They might represent a person or a faculty, a college or a university. However, in some graphs, they represent topics like "Welfare Economics" or schools of thought like "Marginalism." Defining these concepts is by no means an unfraught process. Indeed, it is one that is, in many cases, politically or ideologically charged. The graphs reflect efforts to use the most permissive and expansive definitions of these concepts and feature explanations of the choices made for given cases. Authorial influence is also readily apparent when one considers which nodes have been selected. Some might rightly wonder why, for instance, "trade" is represented by a node and "international economics" is not. Here too, large and permissive categories have been favored and their inclusion explained.

    The connections between nodes should also be approached with care and thought. The definition and inclusion of these connections (or edges) are often reflect authorial choice. Some should not be contentious at all. The father-son relationship that existed between John Neville and John Maynard Keynes is fairly concrete as are the many student-teacher relationships that appear. Connections between institutions and individuals are similarly easy to define. Yet John Maynard Keynes's relationship to "policy planning" seems harder to pin down. An even more thorny set of questions involves how to model the relative strengths of these connections. Here, we have made a choice to not make choices. All connections, whether strong or weak in reality are weighted equally in our graphs. This means that nodes with any type of connection (whether familial, professional, or associative) are subject to the same attractive force.

    When using the social maps as references, there is a final point to consider: incompleteness. The following graphs present a set of information that is by no means complete. It is, in particular, incomplete in two ways. First, there are sources of influence and connections between Cambridge economists that are external to the datasets we have considered. To take a very simple example, W. Stanley Jevons and Henry Sidgwick were clearly intellectual influences for many of the economists in our dataset. However, since they do not fit any of the criteria for inclusion mentioned above, they are nowhere to be found on this site, as of this moment. In the future, many such figures will be added to public graphs. Second, there are connections that we have not yet found. Most of the information about connections has come from secondary literature (principally from the Oxford Database of National Biography) and we make no claims to having read all works written on all the economists who worked in Cambridge between 1900 and 1950. There remains plenty to fill in.


  • VISION

    This project should be considered a work in progress. We will continue updating both our core datasets (all available on this website for download) as well as thinking about and exposing new patterns in the data. For the moment, researchers and interested students of this material should conceive of this project not as a definitive encyclopedia, but as an evocative database, a space where new ideas might suggest themselves to the receptive mind.

    What is presented here is a general picture of Economics at Cambridge. It is, in the first instance, a glance backward into the past, not a fully worked out investigative report. Above all, it is an open invitation for further research, meant to inspire and provoke further questions and research by current scholars. With time, further research by more scholars will hopefully yield many more pictures of a nuanced past.