Graeme Donald Snooks (ed.)

Historical Analysis in Economics


London and New York: Routledge, 1993
ISBN: 0415088259 (hbk)

xvi, 249 p.

Extracts from reviews:

This volume -- a collection of papers which reflects on the deficiencies of current economic methodology and case studies which emphasize not the methods employed but the relevance of historical analysis to economics stems from a conference organized by Snooks at the A.N.U., Canberra, in 1991. It carries a very strong imprint of the editor, who contributes two chapters which pursue arguments he has developed in his most recent book, Economics without time, and divides into four sections: a long introduction from the editor on the contribution of historical economics to economics; three chapters on the role of history in economics, including one by Gary Hawke on what economic history has to offer to public policy; two chapters on urbanization and economic development; and four chapters on long-run issues in labour, business, and banking . . .

It is to the case studies, I suspect, that most economic historians will be drawn and the editor is to be congratulated on bringing together an impressive cast of practitioners of historical economics. In a short review it would be uncharitable to identify any one of the chapters for particular attention, but the volume can be recommended for the high quality of the individual contributions and as testimony to the continued vitality of historical economics.

-- Roger Middleton, The Economic History Review, vol. XLVIII, no. 1, February 1995, pp. 211-12.


Graeme Snooks presents a manifesto for the reorientation of economics in a direction more relevant to the world's longer-term problems. He believes the development of academic economics became inverted with the Marginalists and Alfred Marshall. The late-nineteenth-century historical school of economics also erred, he maintains, but in the opposite direction, by rejecting the deductive method. Schumpeter is Snooks' ideal economist. Historical economics must not reject axiomatic analysis but should enrich it. Snooks offers a reformist conception of economic history, not applied economics or merely detailed description, but the study of the role of institutions, of past crises and their solutions, to gain a better understanding of the long-run world policy-makers must address.

This constructive and expansionary role for economic history is unlikely to be widely criticized by economic historians, but economists, not they, are the principal intended audience. Snooks rather overstates the influence of academic economists, in the UK at least. Their highly abstract approach and otherwordliness left academic gaps that were filled by accountants, marketeers, and by business studies more generally. As undergraduate applicants shifted away from what they saw as the irrelevance or lack of utility of the subject, there were pressures for economics to adjust rather than perish. Snooks' exogenous shock, in the form of changing client demand, has already struck. Unfortunately, it is even more apparent for specialized economic historians, and perhaps they in particular should heed Snooks' message . . .

-- James Foreman-Peck, Australian Economic History Review, vol. XXXV, no. 1, March 1995, pp. 104-6.