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The Dissemination of Economic Ideas

The Dissemination of Economic Ideas

Edited by Heinz D. Kurz, Tamotsu Nishizawa and Keith Tribe

This highly illuminating book marks a significant stage in our growing understanding of how the development of national traditions of economic thought has been affected by both internal and external factors.

Chapter 5: German Influences in the Making of American Economics, 1885–1935

Bradley W. Bateman

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought


Bradley W. Bateman 5.1 INTRODUCTION At the end of the American Civil War, before graduate education was available in the United States, Americans seeking a doctorate had to travel to Europe for their studies. Although the first American research university, Johns Hopkins, was founded in 1876, it would be another decade before the doctorate started to be regularly granted at American universities, and then only in small numbers.1 Thus, the establishment of graduate education and the research university in America depended on the flow of individuals trained in Europe. Far and away the largest number of these individuals were trained in Germany.2 Economics was one of the disciplines that was affected deeply by the training of its graduate students in Germany. Economics had been a part of antebellum baccalaureate education in the United States, but only in a limited and narrow sense. During this time, colleges and universities in the United States had fixed curricula established on a classical model: Greek, Latin, mathematics and rhetoric. Although a few colleges offered a onesemester course in political economy, the topic was usually a part of the capstone course required of all seniors and taught by the college’s president.3 Thus, while the texts of both Say and Bastiat were popular in antebellum American colleges (in translation), the first generation of American textbook authors included college presidents and trustees who fashioned their texts explicitly for the purpose of teaching a capstone course to college seniors. Francis Wayland (president, Brown), Alonzo Potter (trustee, Penn), and...

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