Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.
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Chapter 84: Piero Sraffa (1898–1983)

Heinz D. Kurz and Neri Salvadori


Life Piero Sraffa was born on 5 August 1898 in Turin, Italy. His father, Angelo Sraffa, was an eminent professor of commercial law and later rector of Bocconi University in Milan. Throughout his life Piero had a very close relationship with his mother, who after his father’s death moved to Cambridge to stay near to her son who remained a bachelor. He studied law in Turin and discussed his thesis in 1920 with Luigi Einaudi, who became the President of the Italian Republic in 1948. In the thesis he dealt with the inflation in Italy during and after World War I (Sraffa 1920 [1993]). A year earlier he met Antonio Gramsci, who later was one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party (PCd’I). The two connected a deep friendship that lasted until Gramsci’s death. Sraffa remained close to the party but never became its member. After graduating in Turin he spent a year at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he attended lectures by Edwin Cannan and Herbert Foxwell. He met John Maynard Keynes, who was deeply impressed by the young Italian and invited him to write an essay about the Italian banking system. Keynes published the paper “The bank crisis in Italy” in the Economic Journal, whose editor he was, and asked Sraffa to compose a shorter article for the supplement to the Manchester Guardian Commercial. In it Sraffa, who was possessed of detailed information, uncovered the critical position of the three main Italian banks. Benito Mussolini,...

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