The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Dunbar, Charles Franklin (1830–1900)

  • A. W. Coats
Reference work entry


Dunbar’s career illustrates the narrow gap between practical and academic economics in his lifetime, for he demonstrated that scholarly instincts, common sense and knowledge of current affairs could overcome deficiencies in formal academic training. Exactly 20 years after graduating from Harvard in 1851 he returned as Professor of Political Economy, having previously worked in a mercantile business, qualified and practised as a lawyer, and written articles on political questions for the Boston Daily Advertiser, of which he was sole proprietor and editor from 1865 to 1869. After President Eliot’s invitation to Harvard, Dunbar spent two years travelling and studying in Europe, and subsequently served as Head of the Department of Political Economy for nearly 30 years, Dean of the College (1876–82) and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1890–95), and as editor from 1886 to 1896 of The Quarterly Journal of Economics, the first English-language scholarly periodical in the subject. His election as second President of the American Economic Association in 1892, following Francis A. Walker, testifies to his standing in the emerging economics profession. While he published comparatively little, his works on currency, finance and banking were widely respected, and his essays on the history, condition and methods of economics were wise and balanced at a time of intense controversy.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. W. Coats
    • 1
  1. 1.