San Jose State University The Great Depression Analysis

What topic should you choose?

Whatever you want—so long as it is on some aspect of the history of economic thought, including

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  • The life and work of one particular economist who did most or all of his/her work prior to 1939 (e.g., Adam Smith or J. M. Keynes) or other writer on economics (provided he or she made a significant contribution to the debate, e.g., Bernard Mandeville).
  • A school of thought in one country (e.g., institutional economics in the U.S.).
  • Some combination of the two—an economist and a school of thought (e.g., Knut Wicksell and the Swedish school of economics).
  • The development of economics in one particular country over a period of time (e.g., economic science in the U.S. during the Progressive Era, approximately 1890 to 1920).
  • The development of an approach over a period of time (e.g., the marginalist revolution from 1871 to 1914—or you might wish to include precursors like William Forster Lloyd).
  • The development of a concept (e.g., division of labor, from Antiquity to Adam Smith and beyond, or the theory of comparative cost (comparative advantage), associated with James Mill, Robert Torrens, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill).
  • How a topic has been discussed and analyzed by economists (e.g., slavery, land, intellectual property, profit, high wages), and you would likely set start and finish dates for the discussion (e.g., slavery from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill, economic thought and the Irish question, 1817-1870, what economists had to say about British rule in India, or underconsumptionist theories from Mandeville to Keynes), including a topic specifically to do with economic policy (e.g., the tariff question in U.S. history—tariffs for protection or tariffs for revenue).
  • How an event has been discussed and analyzed by different economists (e.g., the Great Depression by F. A. Hayek of the Austrian school and J. M. Keynes of the UK Cambridge school).

Be advised that you may not choose an economist whose work was mainly or entirely after the Second World War, or an event that occurred after the Second World War—so no Milton Friedman or Great Recession—or a topic that only arose after that war—so no Internet. And, although it is important to describe the historical context in which your chosen economist is writing, remember that you are not writing a paper in economic history, but in the history of economic thought.

How to research the topic

To get you started, consult Alessandro Roncaglia’s A Brief History of Economic Thought (2107), and then check out the following resources:

The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics First Edition (1987) in the King library, and the Third Edition (online, 2018- at, which you can access from home using your membership of the university library.

How to research the topic (cont’d)

And it’s okay to use discriminating and thoughtful use of websites containing worthwhile material (but be sure to cite correctly what you find—full URL and date visited).

The History of Economic Thought website at

Great Economists: Classical Economics and Its Forerunners at

Oxford English Dictionary at

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography at

The Online Library of Liberty at

The Mises Library at

Marxists Internet Archive at

Hathi Trust Digital Library at

The Online Books Page at

Google Books at

Internet Archive at