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Palgrave Macmillan

New Perspectives on the History of Political Economy

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  • © 2018


  • Shapes the historiography of a major new field and brings new insights from history and the humanities to business and economic policy
  • Encourages us to think in new and historically-informed ways about the ethics of power in a global context
  • Uses a variety of still largely distinct but complementary historical approaches: legal and intellectual, literary and philosophical, political and economic

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Table of contents (13 chapters)


About this book

This volume offers a snapshot of the resurgent historiography of political economy in the wake of the ongoing global financial crisis, and suggests fruitful new agendas for research on the political-economic nexus as it has developed in the Western world since the end of the Middle Ages. New Perspectives on the History of Political Economy brings together a select group of young and established scholars from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds—history, economics, law, and political science—in an effort to begin a re-conceptualization of the origins and history of political economy through a variety of still largely distinct but complementary historical approaches—legal and intellectual, literary and philosophical, political and economic—and from a variety of related perspectives: debt and state finance, tariffs and tax policy, the encouragement and discouragement of trade, merchant communities and companies, smuggling and illicit trades, mercantile and colonial systems, economic cultures, and the history of economic doctrines more narrowly construed.

The first decade of the twenty-first century, bookended by 9/11 and a global financial crisis, witnessed the clamorous and urgent return of both 'the political' and 'the economic' to historiographical debates. It is becoming more important than ever to rethink the historical role of politics (and, indeed, of government) in business, economic production, distribution, and exchange. The artefacts of pre-modern and modern political economy, from the fourteenth through the twentieth centuries, remain monuments of perennial importance for understanding how human beings grappled with and overcame material hardship, organized their political and economic communities, won great wealth and lost it, conquered and were conquered.

The present volume, assembling some of the brightest lights in the field, eloquently testifies to the rich and powerful lessons to be had from such a historical understanding of political economy and of power in an economic age.


“This book is a treasure of interdisciplinary scholarship which provides a truly refreshing new lens on the history of capitalism over the last eight hundred years.  As impressive is the overall framing of the book. It serves as a bold manifesto asserting the value of political economy as perspective on the past and future of capitalism in contrast to arid mathematical economics and vacuous cultural history.” (Geoffrey Jones, Isidor Straus Professor of Business History, Harvard Business School)

“This brilliant collection shows not only how important the history of economic thought is for economics, but that the field is experiencing a rebirth. Reinert, Fredona and the contributors to this volume show that the history of political economy is still generally misunderstood. Their goal is to correct that by providing pathbreaking and meticulous scholarship. This visionary book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the history and origins ofcapitalism and economics.” (Jacob Soll, Professor of History and Accounting, University of Southern California)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Harvard Business School, Boston, USA

    Robert Fredona, Sophus A. Reinert

About the editors

Robert Fredona is an Associated Fellow of the Centre for Evolution of Global Business and Institutions at the York Management School, UK. A scholar of Medieval and early modern legal, political, business, and economic history, he has previously taught at Stanford and the University of California at Santa Barbara, as well as been Medici Fellow at Harvard Business School and a visiting scholar in Harvard University’s Department of History, USA.

Sophus A. Reinert is Marvin Bower Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Business, Government, and the International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School, USA. A student of political economy, he works on the long histories of capitalism, globalization, development, and business-government relations from the Renaissance to today’s emerging markets.

Bibliographic Information

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