Avner Offer

Photo: Peter Valckx

Chichele Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford, and Fellow of All Souls College, Emeritus

Avner Offer, FBA



Current Research: ‘From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism, c. 1970-2015’  

The postwar 'golden age' of economic growth also built up American and European welfare states. This settlement was successfully challenged in the 1970s by a coalition of business, taxpayers, consumers, ideologists and social scientists. From this core of discontent, market liberalism retrieved the intellectual and political hegemony it had previously lost, although the recent financial crisis has cast doubt on many of its premises. The project investigates the origins, attributes, and drivers of this movement, its successes, failures, and prospects. In particular, it considers the role of human capital, technological change, economic fundamentals, social disruption and cognitive constraints in explaining the New Right, The Washington Consensus, the fall of communism, de-regulation, privatisation, corruption, and globalisation. The focus of investigation is on policy norms. 

A study of conceptual underpinnings, The Nobel Factor: The Prize in Economics,  Social Democracy, and the Market Turn  was published in October 2016 by Princeton University Press, and is co-authored with Gabriel Söderberg (Uppsala University). 

Market advocates claim support from economic theory, and point to a Nobel Prize in economics. Social democracy invokes no science, but successfully underpins health, education, and welfare for all. This book shows the two movements converging since  the 1970s, in the wider world and in Sweden, with mixed success.   

I continue to work and occasionally to  publish in some of my previous areas of interest, including the history of urban and rural land tenure, international political economy, c. 1870-1920, and consumption and well-being.

A new area of active interest is landscape painting in the nineteenth century. This is related to earlier work in agrarian history and on the quality of life.

Recently published: Burn Mark: A Photographic Memoir of the Six Day War (Oxford: Lintel Press, 2014). [see 'autobiographical', at the bottom of the site]

CURRICULUM VITAE, September 2014

Academic Positions

2014-- Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

2011—2014 Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, Senior Research Fellow and Principal  Investigator, Nobel Prize INET Research Project, University of Oxford

2000—2011 : Chichele Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford, and Fellow of All Souls College.

1992—2000: Professorial Fellow, Nuffield College, Reader in Recent Social and Economic History, University of Oxford.

1990-1991: Reader in Economic and Social History, University of York.

1979-1990: Lecturer in Economic and Social History, University of York.

Research Fellowships

Nov. 2011-Oct. 2014: Principal Investigator, INET Research Project on the Nobel Prize in Economics

Oct. 2008-Oct. 2011: Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. 

Jan.—May 1999: Senior Visiting Fellow, Remarque Institute, New York University

Sept.—Dec. 1991: Senior Fellow, Center for Historical Analysis, Rutgers  University, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Sept. 1985—Sept.  1988:  Research  Fellow,  Research  School  of  Social  Science, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University,  Canberra.

Sept.—Dec. 1984: Visiting Associate, Clare Hall, Cambridge

Oct. 1981—Sept. 1982: Hartley Resarch Fellow, University of  Southampton.

Oct. 1976—Dec. 1978: Junior Research Fellow, Merton College, Oxford.

Student Record

1979: D.Phil. Faculty of Modern History, University of Oxford.

1973-1976: Research Student, St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

1973: B.A.(cum laude), Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (History  and  Geography).


Tawney Lecture (The Economic History Society), Cambridge, 3rd April 2016.   http://www.ehs.org.uk/multimedia/podcasts-of-tawney-lectures.html

Downing Fellowship (and Downing Lecture), University of Melbourne, August-Sept. 2012

Economic History Society Teaching Prize, 2010

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, 2008-2011 

Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK, 2003

Fellow of the British Academy, 2000

Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for Imperial and Commonwealth History, 1992


a. Books and Pamphlets

Property and Politics 1870-1914: Landownership, Law, Ideology and Urban  Development  in England (Cambridge: Cambridge  University  Press, 1981), xviii+445 pp. Reissued, Aldershot: Gregg Revivals 1992. Paperback reprint, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford  University Press, 1989), xix+449 pp. Paperback edition, 1991. Reprinted,  New York: Oxford  University Press, 1997, reissued Oxford, 1998. [Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for Imperial and Commonwealth History, 1992]

(editor) In Pursuit of the Quality of Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), viii+302 pp.

Why has the Public Sector grown so large in Market Societies? The Political Economy of Prudence in the UK, c. 1870-2000 [Inaugural lecture] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 45 pp. [see under discussion paper no. 44]

The Challenge of Affluence: Self-control and Well-being in the United States and Britain since 1950 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Xviii+454 pp. Paperback edition  2007.

(editor, with Rachel Pechey and Stanley Ulijaszek) Insecurity, Inequality, and Obesity in Affluent Societies (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2012).

(with Gabriel Söderberg), The Nobel Factor: The Prize in Economics, Social Democracy, and the Market Turn  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming 2016). Chinese and Russian translations pending. 

b. Parts of Books

‘War Economy’ in The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economic Theory and Doctrine, ed. John Eatwell et al. (London 1987; Macmillan), vol. 4, pp. 875-7.

‘Pacific Rim Societies: Asian Labour and White Nationalism’, in D. Schreuder and J. Eddy (eds.), The Rise of Colonial Nationalism 1880-1914 (Sydney and London: Allen & Unwin, 1988), pp. 227-47. [author listed as 'Offner']

‘Bounded Rationality in Action: The German Submarine Campaign, 1915-1918’ in Bill Gerrard, (ed.), Rationality and Economics (London: Routledge, 1993), pp. 179-202.

‘Going to War in 1914: A Matter of Honour?’, in Craig Wilcox (ed.), The Great War: Gains and Losses – Anzac and Empire (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1995), pp. 117-161. [see also under ‘articles’].

‘Foreign Farming in British Eyes’, in Negley Harte and R. Quinalt (eds.), Land and Society in Britain, 1700-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), pp. 78-89.     

‘The Technological Revolution that Never Was: Gender, Class, and the Home Appliance Market in Interwar England’ (with Sue Bowden), in V. de Grazia and E. Furlough (eds.), The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 244-274.

‘Introduction’, pp. 1-17, and 

 'The Mask of Intimacy: Advertising and the Quality of Life’ in Avner Offer (ed.), In Pursuit of the Quality of Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) and 211-255. [reprinted in Ian MacRury (ed.), Advertising, (London: Routledge, 2012), ch. 34.] 

‘The American Automobile Frenzy of the 1950s’, in K. Bruland and P.K. O’Brien (eds.), From Family Firms to Corporate Capitalism: Essays in Business and Industrial History in Honour of Peter Mathias (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 315-353.

‘Costs and Benefits, Prosperity and Security, 1870-1914’ Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 3: The Nineteenth Century, ed. Andrew Porter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 690-711.

‘The Blockade of Germany and the Strategy of Starvation, 1914-1918: An Agency Perspective’, in R. Chickering and Stig Förster (eds.) Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914-1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 169-188.  

‘A Dialogue with the Past’, in Pat Hudson (ed.), Living Economic and Social History (Glasgow: Economic History Society, 2001), pp. 254-257.

‘Welfare Measurement and Human Well-being’, in Paul A. David and Mark Thomas (eds.), The Economic Future in Historical Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 371-399.

‘Response to Joanna Bourke’, in Chris Miller (ed.), War on Terror: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2006 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), pp. 248-252. [Topic is Torture and Trade in the 'War on Terror'].

‘Capitalism and Self-Control’, in  Kurt Almqvist and Alexander Linklater (eds.), On Capitalism (Stockholm: Ax:son Johnson Foundation,  2011), pp. 213-222. (also in Swedish)

‘Consumption and Well-Being’, Oxford Handbook on the History of Consumption, ed. Frank Trentmann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 653-671. [Japanese translation 'Consumption and Well-being (Japanese title: Shōhi to Kōfuku)' in Shinobu Majima and Toshio Kusamitsu eds., Genealogies of Consumption and Material Desire (Japanese title: Yokubōto Shōhi no Keifu), Tokyo: NTT Publishing, 2014.]

‘Introduction’ and

 ‘Obesity under Affluence Varies by Welfare Regimes’, in Avner Offer, Rachel Pechey and Stanley Ulijaszek (eds.), Obesity, Inequality, and Insecurity in Affluent Societies (Oxford:  Oxford University Press for the British Academy,  2012). [adapted from journal article]

‘Regard’, in Handbook on the Economics of Philanthropy, Reciprocity and Social Enterprise, ed. Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamgni (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2013), 285-294.

Hayek in Citations and the Nobel Memorial Prize , in Robert Leeson (ed.) Hayek: A Collaborative Biography Part 1 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), chapter 3, pp. 61-70 (with Gabriel Söderberg and Samuel Bjork)

‘Consumption and Affluence’, in Roderick Floud, Jane Humphries and Paul Johnson (eds.), Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, 4th edn., vol. 2, ch. 8 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  2014), pp. 205-228.

Narrow Banking, Real Estate, and Financial Stability in the UK, c. 1870-2010’, in Nicholas Dimsdale and Anthony Hotson, eds. British Financial Crises since 1825 (Oxford: Oxford University Press,  2014), pp.  158-173.  Discussion paper version

Regard for Others, pp. 154-171


‘A Warrant for Pain: Caveat Emptor vs the Duty of Care in American Medicine, c. 1970-2010’, pp. 332-249, in Nicholas Morris and David Vines (eds.), Capital Failure: Rebuilding Trust in Financial Services (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 
[both chapters previously published as articles in 2012, the former as ‘Sympathy, Self-Interest and the Invisible Hand from Adam Smith to Market Liberalism’]

‘Obesity and Welfare Regimes’, The Oxford Handbook of Economics and Human Biology, ed. John Komlos and Inas Rashad Kelly (New York: Oxford University Press, online 2015; print version forthcoming 2017).

'Charles Hilliard Feinstein (1932-2004)', The Palgrave Companion to Cambridge Economists, ed. Robert Cord (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2016), pp. 1027-1044 (adapted from the British Academy memoir, see under non-refereed journals below). 

'Models, Money and Housing', in  The Contradictions of Capital in the Twenty-First Century: The Piketty Opportunity, ed. Pat Hudson and Keith Tribe (Newcastle, UK: Agenda, 2016), pp. 53-63.

‘The Sea in the Great War’, in The Sea in History—The Modern World, ed. Christian Buchet and N.A.M. Rodger (Martlesham, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2017), pp. 418-428.

c. Refereed Journal Articles

‘The Origins of the Law of Property Acts, 1910-1925’, Modern Law Review, vol. 40 (1977), pp. 505-22.

‘Ricardo’s Paradox and the Movement of Rents in Britain, c.1870-1910’, Economic History Review, vol. 33 (1980), pp. 236-52.  Reprinted in J. C. Wood, David Ricardo: Critical Assessments (1985), vol. 4, 156-173.

‘Empire and Social Reform: British Overseas Investment and Domestic Politics, 1908-1914’, Historical Journal, vol. 26 (1983), pp. 119-38.

‘Using the Past in Britain: Retrospect and Prospect’, The Public Historian, vol. 6, 4 (Fall 1984), pp. 15-34.

‘The Working Classes, British Naval Plans and the Coming of the Great War’, Past and Present, no. 107 (May 1985), pp. 204-226.

‘Morality and Admiralty: The Royal Navy, Economic Warfare and International Law, 1900­-1919’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 23 (Jan. 1988), pp. 99-119.

‘Economic Interpretation of War: The German Submarine Campaign 1915--1918’, Australian Economic History Review, vol. 24 (1989), pp. 21-41.

‘Farm Tenure and Land Values in England, c. 1750-1950’, Economic History Review, vol. 44, no. 1 (Feb. 1991), pp. 1-20.

‘The British Empire 1870--1914: A Waste of Money?’, Economic History Review, vol. 46 (May 1993), pp. 215-238.

 ‘Household Appliances and the Use of Time in the U.S.A. and Britain Since the 1920s’, (with Sue Bowden)  Economic History Review, vol. 47, (Nov. 1994), pp. 725-748.

‘Lawyers and Land Law Revisited’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 14, 2 (1994), pp. 269-278.

‘Going to War in 1914: A Matter of Honor?’, Politics & Society, vol. 23, 2 (June 1995), pp. 213-241.

‘Between the Gift and the Market: The Economy of Regard', Economic History Review, vol. 50, 3 (Aug. 1997), pp. 450-476.

‘Social and Economic Mobilization in the First World War’, Zmanim, no. 65 (Jan. 1999), pp. 95-111. [in Hebrew]

‘Household Appliances and “Systems of Provision”: A Reply’,  (with Sue Bowden), Economic History Review, vol. 52, 3 (Aug. 1999), pp. 563-567.

‘Body-Weight and Self-Control in the USA and Britain since the 1950s’, Social History of Medicine, vol. 14, 1 (2001), pp. 79-106. 

‘The Markup for Lemons: Quality and Uncertainty in American and British Used-Car Markets, c. 1953-1973’ Oxford Economic Papers, vol. 59, 5, Supplementary issue (2007), pp. i31-i48.

British Manual Workers: From Producers to Consumers, c. 1950-2000’, Contemporary British History, vol. 22, 4 (2008), pp. 538-571.

 ‘Obesity Under Affluence varies by Welfare Regimes: The Effect of Fast Food, Insecurity and Inequality’, Economics and Human Biology vol. 8 (2010), pp. 297-308 (with Rachel Pechey and Stanley Ulijaszek) Discussion paper version.

A Warrant for Pain: Caveat Emptor  vs.the Duty of Care in American Medical System  c. 1970-2010, Real-World Economics Review, no. 61 (September, 2012), pp. 85-99.  

'Sympathy, Self-Interest and the Invisible Hand from Adam Smith to Market Liberalism', Economic Thought, vol. 1, 2 (2012),pp. 1-14.

‘Time-Series Citation Data: The Nobel Prize in Economics’, Scientometrics vol. 98 (2014), pp. 185-196 (with Samuel Bjork and Gabriel Söderberg).

‘Godwin’s Citations, 1783-2005: Highest Renown at the Pinnacle of Disfavor’, Nineteenth-Century Prose, vol. 41, 1/2 (double issue) (Fall 2014), 27-52. (with Pamela Clemit).

'The Market Turn: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism', forthcoming Economic History Review. Discussion paper version. 

Unpublished papers

The Economy of Obligation: Incomplete Contracts and the Cost of the Welfare State’,  University of Oxford Discussion Papers in Economic and Social History no. 103, August 2012. 
[Russian translation published as Ekonomika obiazatelstv: nepollnye dogovory i stoimost sotsialno-orientirovannogo gosudarstva, Ekonomicheskaia Politika, 8 (2013), 2: pp. 109—126; 3: pp. 152—166.]

d. Non-refereed Journals

‘The Challenge of Affluence—Interview with Avner Offer’, Challenge, 50, 1 (2007), 1-13.

‘A Vision of Prosperity’, Position paper for the Sustainable Development Commission, UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (17 Nov. 2007). 

'Charles Hilliard Feinstein', Proceedings of the British Academy, 153. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, 6 (2008), pp. 189-212. Discussion paper version (with list of his publications). [reprinted as book chapter, 2016].

‘Obesity: The Welfare Regime Hypothesis’, British Academy Review, 15 (March 2010), pp. 30-32 (with Rachel Pechey and Stanley Ulijaszek).

'Reciprocity and Regard', Insights, 1, vol. 13 (2013), pp. 45-50. 

'Facing Future Adversity: A Challenge to Markets', Challenge, vol. 56, 4 (July/August 2013), pp. 38-50. 

'Endowments for War in 1914', VoxEU, 19 September 2014

e. Book reviews

Albion, American Journal of Sociology, ANU Reporter, Australian Economic History Review, Australian Historical Studies, Economic History Review, Economic Journal, English Historical Review, EH.Net, Geographical Journal, German History, History, International History Review, Journal of Historical Geography, Journal of Economic History, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Journal of Social HistoryOverland, Oxford Today, Planning History Bulletin, Times Literary Supplement, Zmanim.

f. Editor

Joint-editor (with Prof. F.M.L. Thompson) of a series of Historical Handbooks: short books designed to provide an historical perspective on current issues, written mainly by economic and social historians. The series was published by Faber and Faber:

W.D. Rubinstein, Wealth and Inequality in Britain (1986).

Alison Ravetz, The Government of Space: Town Planning in Modern Britain (1986).

Michael Sanderson, Educational Opportunity and Social Change in England (1987).

Martin Daunton, A Property-Owning Democracy? Housing in Britain (1987).

John Saville, The Labour Movement in Britain: A Commentary (1988).

Tony Mason, Sport in Britain (1988).

Frank Prochashka, The Voluntary Impulse: Philanthropy in Modern Britain (1988).

Anne Digby, British Welfare Policy: Workhouse to Workfare (1989).

J.A. Sharpe, Judicial Punishment in England (1990).

Noel Whiteside, Bad Times: Unemployment in British Social and Political History (1991).

Sean Glynn, No Alternative? Unemployment in Britain (1991).

Colin Holmes, A Tolerant Country? Immigrants, Refugees and Minorities in Britain (1991).

Joint editor -- Cambridge Studies in Economic History (Cambridge University Press)

g. Video Recordings

Interviewer, Interviews with Historians: Michael Thompson [F.M.L. Thompson], London: Institute of Historical Research (1996).

'A Warrant for Pain: The American Health System, c. 1970-2012', Public Lecture at the University of York, 13 November 2013.

 h. Autobiographical

'The Future of Scientific Research and its Ideals', Interview at Sciences-Po (Paris), during the Tony Judt Memorial Conference, June 2011.

Podcast of autobiographical interview with Timothy Noonan, 28 July 2011.  [Transcript file available at bottom of website as historical-gadfly-podcast28-11-2011.pdf]

'The Centennial Issue of the Discussion Papers in Economic and Social History', University of Oxford Discussion Papers in Economic and Social History, 100 (July 2013), pp. 13-16. 

All Souls Triptych: Portraying College Staff (Oxford: All Souls College, 2012), 16 pp. (with Benjamin Sullivan and Colin Dunn). 

Burn Mark: A Photographic Memoir of the Six Day War (Oxford: Lintel Press, 2014)

Avner Ofer,
Jun 6, 2013, 9:47 AM