Economic History or History of Economics? A Review Essay on Sylvia Nasar's Grand Pursuit: the Story of Economic Genius

Orley C. Ashenfelter

NBER Working Paper No. 17607
Issued in November 2011
NBER Program(s):   EFG   LS

In this essay I review Sylvia Nasar’s long awaited new history of economics, Grand Pursuit. I describe how the book is really an economic history of the period from 1850-1950, with distinguished economists’ stories inserted in appropriate places. Nasar’s goal is to show how economists work, but also to show that they are people too--with more than enough warts and foibles to show they are human! I contrast the general view of the role of economics in Grand Pursuit with Robert Heilbroner’s remarkably different conception in The Worldly Philosophers. I also discuss more generally the question of why economists might be interested in their history at all.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17607

Published: “Economic history or history of economics?” Review of Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, Center for Economic Policy Studies, Working Papers: 1365. Journal of Economic Literature, March 2012, 50(1), 96-102.

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