The Ed Tower–Eno River Press Collection of Economics and Business Course Materials

Ed Tower
Ed Tower, professor emeritus of Economics

In the late 1970s, Ed Tower, an economics professor at Duke University, began assembling a collection of economics course syllabi and other course-related materials that could be shared with scholars around the world. The syllabi, drawn from both undergraduate and graduate courses, spanned virtually the entire field of economics and the course offerings of numerous of the most influential economists of the period — including many future Nobel laureates. To facilitate the dissemination of these materials, Tower established the Eno River Press, a small publishing company, with a mission to make the syllabi available in a series of small paperback books.

The first series was published in 1980 and consisted of fifteen volumes, each devoted to a particular field of economics. Longstanding fields such as macro, micro, public finance and labor were represented, of course, but so too were relatively new fields such as environmental, urban and health economics. A second series, revised and updated, was published in 1981. It included additional volumes consisting of 'exams, puzzles, and problems,' drawn from both undergraduate and graduate courses, which brought the total number of volumes to twenty-four. Two further updates followed in 1990 and 1995, with the last series including materials from courses at more than 100 universities.

  Full Eno River Press Collection  Economics Collection Business Administration Collection

Though the 1980 series was published without commentary, Tower explained his motivation for the project in a brief "Note to Users and Potential Contributors" that appeared at the start of each volume from the 1981 edition onward:

These teaching materials are drawn from both undergraduate and graduate reading programs at 68 major colleges and universities. They are designed to widen the horizons of individual professors and curriculum committees. Some include suggestions for term paper topics, and many of the lists are useful guides for students seeking both topics and references for term papers and theses. Thus, they should enable faculty members to advise students more effectively and efficiently. They will also be useful to prospective graduate students seeking more detailed information about various graduate programs; to those currently enrolled in programs who are preparing for field examinations; and to librarians responsible for acquisitions in economics. Finally, they may be interesting to researchers and administrators who wish to know more about how their own work and the work of their department is being received by the profession.

A new series, this one consisting of syllabi from courses in the various fields of Business Administration, was added in 1985. The original Business Administration series consisted of a dozen volumes, spanning topics including finance, organizational behavior, business policy and strategy, and industrial relations. A 1990 revision saw the number of volumes in this series expanded to fourteen, while the final edition, published in 1995, consisted of twenty volumes.

Eno River Collection

In 2020, Tower donated his personal collection of these volumes to Duke's Center for the History of Political Economy. With support from the Center and the Department of Economics, the volumes have been scanned and digitized in searchable pdf format and made available for viewing and downloading on the Center's website. Though intended by Tower as an aid for professors and graduate students at a time before the internet created multiple points of easy access to such materials, these volumes are now, more than forty-five years after the first series was published, an incredibly rich historical resource. At the most basic level, they provide a window into the evolution of economics from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. But they do so in a unique way, illustrating the ingredients seen as essential for the training of an 'economist,' whether that be an undergraduate or a PhD student, of specialists in the various fields of economic inquiry, and how these ingredients have changed over time.

It is our hope that the Tower collection will prove to be not just a useful resource for scholars interested in the history of economics, but a stimulus for further work on the history of economics pedagogy and its relationship to the history of economics more broadly.

We would like to thank Duke MA student Ziyu Huang for her excellent work transforming these volumes into searchable PDF files.