Chasing the B: A Bibliographic Account of Economics' Relation to its Past, 1991-2011
THEMA Working Papers No. 2014-09
45 Pages Posted: 21 May 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2014
Some historians argue that the history of economic thought (HET) is useful and important to economists and that historians should remain in economics departments. Others believe that historians’ initiatives toward economists are doomed in advance to failure and that they should instead ally themselves with historians and sociologists of science located in humanities departments. Generally, the contributions that are devoted to reviewing the state of HET take a firm side for either one of these two positions and therefore have a prescriptive view on how history should be written. By contrast, our paper proposes a descriptive account of the kind of contributions to HET that have been published in major economics journals over the past two decades. To avoid definitional issues over HET, we use the B category of the JEL classification to retrieve and analyze the relevant literature. We show that, though contributions to HET are still found in top economics journals, the rate of publication of such papers has become increasingly uneven and the methods and narrative styles they adopt are increasingly remote from that advocated in the sub-disciplinary literature. For this reason, historians who are still willing to address the economics’ community should be more interested in expanding the frontiers of their field rather than in trying to anticipate their targeted readers’ preferences.
Keywords: history of economics, economics journals, American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Economic Journal
JEL Classification: B20, A14, B40, B29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation