The Uses of Economic Theory

  • Donald N. McCloskey
Part of the Studies in Economic and Social History book series (SESH)


Historical economics does what it has done by means of economic theory. A quarter of a century before the first stirrings of historical economics the great Swedish economist and historian, Eli Heckscher, put it this way:

Now, if economic theory is at all what it ought to be, its reasonings should apply to economic life as such, and consequently to that of all ages. No doubt much remains to be done in the field of economic theory; but an attempt might at least be made to utilize economic theory for the work of economic history. [Heckscher, 1930]

An historian unable to make use of the intellectual apparatus constructed in the two centuries since Adam Smith may be a fine fellow, an excellent scholar, a skilled user of statistics, an important figure in historical studies, but if innocent of economic theory he will not be doing historical economics.


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Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald N. McCloskey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of lowaUSA

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