Economists' Lives: Biography and Autobiography in the History of Economics

Economists' Lives: Biography and Autobiography in the History of Economics. 2007. Edited by E. Roy Weintraub and Evelyn L. Forget. Supplement to volume 39 of HOPE. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

"Introduction," by E. Roy Weintraub and Evelyn L. Forget (pp. 1–6). Historians of economics are only now coming to terms with the role of biography and autobiography in the history of the discipline.

Part 1. Stage Setting

"Rediscovering Intellectual Biography—and Its Limits," by Malachi Hacohen (pp. 9–29). Biography, with all its limits, is indespensible in the history of ideas for explaining intellectual change and the acquisition of new ideas.

"Is Autobiography Anti-academic and Uneconomical? Some Thoughts on Academic Autobiography," by Jeremy D. Popkin (pp. 30–47). Economists' autobiographies, tending to date to be largely impersonal, raise questions about the relationship between individualism and a literary genre that is often assumed to be the quintessential expression of personal identity.

Part 2. Varieties of Economists' Biographies

"Lives in Synopsis: The Production and Use of Short Biographies by Historians of Economics," by Roger E. Backhouse (pp. 51–75). Short biographies introduce economists of whom substantial biographies will never be written, and at their best they encapsulate more clearly than a long volume the essence of a life.

"The Creation of Heroes and Villains as a Problem in the History of Economics," by Robert W. Dimand (pp. 76–95). The process of demonizing and lionizing produces one-sided, selective readings yet calls attention to an intellectual heritage that would otherwise be even more neglected by a present-minded discipline.

"The Group Life as a Genre of Economists' Life Writing," by William Coleman (pp. 96–114). Biographies of a group of persons can be useful in the history of economics depending on how narrowly the biographer defines the group.

Part 3. Autobiograpy and Identity

"The Economy of Narrative Identity," by Paul John Eakin (pp. 117–33).The narrative identity system functions as it does at least in part because of its place in a larger economic structure.

"Using Autobiographical Statements to Investigate the Identity of American Economists," by Mike Reay (pp. 134–53). There is a surprisingly heterogeneous collection of images relevant to economists' identity, distributed unevely across space and time.

"The Role of Oral History in the Historiography of Heterodox Economics," by Tiago Mata and Frederic S. Lee (pp. 154–71). A genuine history of heterodox economists and their communities is still to be written, a narrative that successfully integrates agency and structure, the individual and the collective.

"Oral History and the Historical Reconstruction of Chicago Economics," by Ross Emmett (pp. 172–92). The Chicago Economics Oral History Project promises to be a richly textured resource for the study of economics at the University of Chicago.

Part 4. Studies in Biography

"François Quesnay: A 'Rural Socrates' in Versailles?," by Christine Théré and Loïc Charles (pp. 195–214). The description of Quesnay's character found in eulogies was heavily influenced by the rhetorical conventions of the genre.

"Some Relationship between a Scholar's and an Entrepreneur's Life: The Biography of L. Albert Hahn," by Jan-Otmar Hesse (pp. 215–33). Hahn's books, as well as his original and reflective articles, have always been related to his profession as a banker.

"'Between Worlds,' or an Imagined Reminiscence by Oskar Morgenstern about Equilibrium and Mathematics in the 1920," by Robert Leonard (pp. 234–68). An imagined first-person account captures certain nuances of perception and impression that could be conveyed only imperfectly through traditional narrative.

"Maynard and Virginia: A Personal and Professional Friendship," by Craufurd D. Goodwin (pp. 269–91).Woolf's overall influence may well have been significant in forming Keynes's worldview and is thus worth the attention of historians of economics.

"The Intimate Spaces of Community: John Maynard Keynes and the Arts," by Patricia Laurence (pp. 292–312). Keynes's interest in structuring national arts policies grew out of his sympathy and feeling for his artistic friends in Bloomsbury.

Part 5. The Biographer's Craft

"Biography and Autobiography: Harry Johnson," by D. E. Moggridge (pp. 315–41). Autobiography—especially in fragmented or serial form and written for differing purposes—poses special challenges to the biographer.

"Life Writings: On-the-Job Training with F. A. Hayek," by Bruce Caldwell (pp. 342–54). Use oral history accounts with caution, make friends with the archival record, and read not only the footnotes but the works referred to in the footnotes.

"Reflections of a Marshall Biographer," by Peter Groenewegen (pp. 355–66). Provide a "warts and all" biography, provide the relevant factual background, and blend chronology with a treatment in terms of activities.

"A Personal Afterword," by E. Roy Weintraub (pp. 367–70). The connection between history, biography, and autobiography is seldom addressed with any authorial self-consciousness.