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I was just amused with two projects by Shaun Usher: to “gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos” in his blog Letters of Note, and to present interesting letterheads in his Letterheady blog.

In the former one can see images and the transcript of a scathing letter from John Lennon to Paul and Linda McCartney in the early 1970s, and letters from other pop figures as Mark Twain, Yoko Ono, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Edgar Allan Poe, CalTech’s chemist Eric Carreira to his post-doc student, among many others. In the latter blog, one finds letterheads of people/companies like Paul Simon, Elizabeth Taylor, Ozzy Osbourne, Marvel, Capitol Records, and many other beautiful ones.

It is interesting that Usher, despite of having “a seemingly endless supply of correspondence to plough through,” invites cyberfellows to contribute with their own images. But he warns them: “If you already know it’s fake, don’t send it.”

Just fun!


Historians of economics and economists have a tense relationship. For various reasons. We have already seen this tension showing up in this blog, in different ways: issues of building halls of fame, the art of making interviews and using it in historical accounts, issues on the veracity of stories told, discussions about strategies of publishing,  and more recently the matter of using the past by economists and their refusal to be very informed by historical work.

We also know that the recent economic and financial crisis has resuscitated some economists like Keynes, Marx, Smith, Schumpeter, Minsky, Hayek, and others. Confidence in modern economics was shaken and criticisms were raised by prominent figures such as Krugman, among others. This made us wonder, as Beatrice wrote, whether history of economics would be seen as providing “useful knowledge for economists in a time of crisis”. Teaching of the history of economics became somewhat fashionable (mainly given the low interest it had previously). High hopes in our field, deservedly.

However, there is still a very tough issue that I am not sure how much the current crisis can change: the fact that historians of economics usually are affiliated to economics departments and are evaluated according to unfavorable rankings of journals. Recently, Daniela Parisi posted a message on the SHOE List (Feb. 24, 2011) announcing an assistant professor position at the Faculty of Economics of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, Italy. When people went to check requirements and additonal information, they learned that that professorship would be assigned based on outstanding research according to a list of journals that had no history of economics journal in it. Some historians were offended and later Daniela explained that she posted that message:

Thinking of all the Italian economists working in the history of economic thought and of the historians of economic thought that have long taught economic subjects in Italy and abroad. In sending in the invitation, I thought of all those that, in reading it, would feel discriminated against. I sent it in to see the reactions the invitation would trigger…

More recently, the president of the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA), Alex Millmow, posted a message on SHOE with a call for trying to save their journal, the History of Economics Review, from a downgrade, which would jeopardize the jobs of many historians and substantially limit the youngsters to have a chance of a decent academic life. A similar dreadful situation like this is happening elsewhere in Europe and in North-America.

Brazil is an odd country in this sense because the official ranking used by an agency of the Ministry of Education to evaluate graduate programs in different areas, including economics, has in its first category journals like AER, QJE, JPE, Econometrica, and top field journals such as HOPE and the Journal of Economic Methodology, among others. This is the product of a resistance work and it is not permanent: every three years the ranking is discussed among economists and it may change.

But the real question remains, how effective will be the crisis and the lack of confidence it brought to economics in having a permanent effect to the history of economics beyond generating demand for teachers of this subject: will it make economists more sensitive to issues of academic standards and ranking of historical work? (Of course, this question is important to the extent which historians of economics keep fighting to have positions in economics departments.)

Do you have talent for the history of economics?

Paul Samuelson asked in the title of a commentary to John Chipman’s book on Pareto (Box 6, Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University): “Do you

The young Samuelson (from the Nobel Prize website)

have talent for economic theory?”, and started it as follows:

You should cultivate chiropractory or plumbing if you can’t give the right definite answer to the following question:

“If the minimum cost of achieving at least adequate amounts of calories and vitamins is $39 per year, what must the minimum cost be of achieving exactly the specified amounts of calories and vitamins?”

Does anyone want to try, just for fun, to formulate a question that would serve similarly to the history of economics? Hum… I guess it should start with Smith and end with Keynes…

Brad DeLong to Talk on the History of Macroeconomics

I guess more people received the same email as me… But in any case, Richard H. Steckel, a professor of economics at the Ohio State University, informed me that J. Bradford DeLong, a professor of economics at U.C. Berkeley, a macroeconomist, economic historian and active blogger

will speak on Monday Nov. 8 at 3:30 (EST) on “Macroeconomics in Historical Perspective.” The links for the streaming event are given below.  …  In case you are unable to view the live event, we plan to archive the seminar on the Economics Department web page at Ohio State.

Real Producer: http://streaming.osu.edu/live1.htm
Windows Media: mms://streaming1.osu.edu/wmtencoder/live1.wmv

So, everybody is invited to see what he will discuss about the history of macroeconomics. In case you want to listen him talk on his education and on “Economics, Politics, and Public Discourse,” there is the following 2007 Youtube video:

Mini-Symposium in Brazil, 20-21 Aug. 2010

On August 20-21 the Department of Economics at Universiy of São Paulo will host a mini symposium on the history of postwar economics. Three renowned scholars on the subject will give a talk at this event: E. Roy Weintraub (Duke University), Mary Morgan (LSE and University of Amsterdam) and Marcel Boumans (University of Amsterdam). They will interact with the community of local scholars and students—and I truly hope the students will see how interesting this subject is…

As I know that everybody is waiting to come to Brazil only in 2014 (wiser people would come now and in 2014, at least…), I am working on having it streamed live on internet and recorded (the videos will be freely available on internet afterwards). For further information on this recording (to be posted later) and for further details about the event, please check the symposium webpage at:


HES 2010

One special thing that called my attention at the last HES in Syracuse was the impressive number of young scholars. As we know, the young scholars program, started in 2000 by Sandra Peart (Dean of the Jepson School at the University of Richmond), recently gained substantial financial support from Warren J. and Sylvia J. Samuels: as a result, the program is now dedicated to them as the Samuels Young Scholars Program. If the program had an average of 8 young scholars attending the HES meetings from 2000 to 2007, in 2009 (Denver) they were 14 and this year 16. Two characteristics of this group is worth mentioning: the majority is non-American, most of them doing Ph.D. in Europe. If this trend continues, it would be easier for the HES meetings to take place abroad (i.e., outside North-America)…

Craufurd Goodwin

Harro Maas and Tiago Mata (our buddy in this playground and elsewhere) have interviewed Craufurd Goodwin (and also E. Roy Weintraub, Neil De Marchi and Paul Dudenhefer), James B. Duke Professor of Economics at Duke University, about his leadership in the field of history of economics and about the 40th anniversary of his editorship of HOPE — this week there will be a conference at Duke celebrating all this. Harro and Tiago have produced a very nice video, in two parts, with excerpts of that interview that will surely interest historians of economics, fans of Craufurd, and friends of the Duke group in general: