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 97: Richard Ferdinand Kahn (1905–1989)

Geoffrey Colin Harcourt


Richard Kahn was Maynard Keynes’s favourite pupil. At the end of his life Kahn said he was happy to be regarded as a disciple of Keynes. However, it may be argued that Kahn was much more than either of these (which is not meant to downgrade either of them). Kahn was born in London in 1905 into a Jewish family of German origin. His family combined strict religious observance with a passion for education. Kahn went to St Paul’s School for Boys. (Joan Robinson, his greatest intellectual friend, went to St Paul’s School for Girls.) He came up to Cambridge in 1926, to King’s College. For the first three years he read mathematics, obtaining a First, and then physics, in which he obtained a Second and a notorious reputation for clumsiness and breakages at laboratory practicals. He stayed on for a fourth year, reading for Part II of the Economics Tripos. Kahn was supervised by Gerald Shove and Keynes. He obtained a First, a remarkable performance. This was followed by an even more remarkable achievement. He wrote, in just over one and a half years, a Fellowship dissertation for King’s, “The economics of the short period”, which was highly praised by Pigou and Keynes. In his dissertation Kahn (1929) made the short period a topic worthy of study in its own right, especially in periods of recession or depression when the ceteris paribus assumption of a given stock of capital goods held for long stretches of calendar time. In the...

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