The Economic History Society (EHS) was founded at a conference held at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), University of London in July 1926 but the ground had been made fertile for it over the previous 50 years. It was half a century earlier, in 1876, that ‘economic history’ first entered the title of an examination paper. ‘Political economy and economic history’ was examined as part of the new History Tripos in Cambridge. In 1878, when the Revd. William Cunningham returned to Cambridge after four years based in Liverpool lecturing for the newly-created Cambridge extension system, he found that no-one was properly teaching for the new paper, and that what the subject needed was a textbook. In 1882 the first edition in one relatively small volume duly appeared of his The Growth of English Industry and Commerce,(1) a work that was to grow into three fat volumes. Either the first exam paper in 1876 or the first textbook in 1882 can be taken to mark the beginning of what might be called the ‘take-off’ for economic history as a discipline in Britain.
In 1881 and 1882 Arnold Toynbee gave his famous course of lectures in Oxford, reconstructed after his early death and published as Lectures on the Industrial Revolution of the Eighteenth Century in England.(2) In 1882 there also appeared the second volume of Thorold Rogers’s massive History of Agriculture and Prices in England, the first volume of which had appeared in 1866; the other five volumes were to follow in 1887 and 1902.(3) In 1885 W. J. Ashley published the first volume of his Introduction to English Economic History and Theory,(4) a book dedicated to the memory of Arnold Toynbee. In the same year Ashley left Oxford and went to Toronto as Professor of Political Economy and Constitutional History. The inaugural lecture he gave there was dedicated to Gustav Schmoller, one of the German scholars in whose hands economic history was more developed in Germany than it was in England. In 1892 Ashley moved on to Harvard, becoming the first Professor of Economic History in the English-speaking world.
From its foundation in 1895, the London School of Economics (LSE) placed economic history centrally among the social sciences. Cunningham was brought in from Cambridge as a part-time teacher of the subject ‘to counteract Marshall’, as Sidney Webb explicitly said. Economic history was also taught by the original Director, W. A. S. Hewins, whose first book, English Trade and Finance chiefly in the Seventeenth Century had described him on the title page as ‘University Extension Lecturer on Economic History’.(5) When Hewins resigned the Directorship of the School at the end of 1903, tempted away by Joseph Chamberlain to run the Tariff Commission, it was decided that there ought to be a full-time lectureship in economic history established in order to continue the teaching he had undertaken. Lilian Tomn, a few months later to become Mrs Knowles, was appointed and at the beginning of 1904 took up the first full-time position in the subject in a British university. She had been one of the first research students at LSE, and before that a Cambridge pupil of Cunningham’s. With this appointment, economic history’s initial phase was complete and its mature growth began.
The second university appointment specifically in economic history was the lectureship held at the University of Manchester by H. O. Meredith from 1905 to 1908. The textbook he published in 1908, Outlines of the Economic History of England, showed that the lectures he gave in Manchester were on an established rather than a pioneering discipline.(6) In 1907 a third lectureship in the subject was established, at Oxford, and filled by L. L. Price. The fourth followed in 1908 at Edinburgh, held by George Unwin. It was Unwin who filled the first chair in the subject in Britain, that established at Manchester in 1910. Lilian Knowles had become a Reader in the subject at LSE in 1907, the first in the country, and in 1909 Price was promoted to a Readership at Oxford. But the establishment of a chair in a field marks a new stage in maturity. The second chair came in 1921, when one was established at LSE for the promotion of Mrs Knowles.
By the early 1920s economic history was well established in its original quadrilateral between Cambridge, Oxford, LSE and Manchester. The Professorships at Manchester and LSE, and the Readership at Oxford had as yet no institutional equivalent in Cambridge, but J. H. Clapham was giving his lectures on economic history there from 1908, 20 years before Cambridge created a chair in the subject for him. In 1926 the first volume of Clapham’s monumental Economic History of Modern Britain (7) appeared dedicated to the memory of two improbably but appropriately linked names – Cunningham and Marshall. The old Methodenstreit was over; courses of lectures and research were the order of the day.
Such was the stage economic history had grown to by 1926. Economic history was ready to accept the final accolade of recognition as an independent discipline: the founding of a professional society to bring its practitioners together and the founding of a specialist journal devoted to the subject. The first two professors of the subject both died in post, both relatively young – Unwin in 1925 and Mrs Knowles in 1926. The leading roles in founding the Economic History Society (EHS) were played by a harmonious duet formed by Eileen Power and R. H. Tawney. A third part was played, crucially but less harmoniously, by E. Lipson. These three got the EHS founded and the Economic History Review established.
Eileen Power and R. H. Tawney both taught at the London School of Economics, lived as neighbours in Mecklenburgh Square and ran a seminar together on the social and economic history of Tudor England at the Institute of Historical Research from 1923. Power had been on the staff of LSE since 1921, the year the Institute of Historical Research was founded, becoming Reader in Economic History in 1924. She had previously taught at Girton College, Cambridge, where she had been a student, and after graduating in 1910, she had been a research student at LSE. Eileen Power was a woman of charismatic charm and beauty. ‘Everyone was in love with her’,(8) Nora Carus-Wilson once said to me, her eyes brightening. ‘Of course we all loved Eileen; she was the only person in the department who was not a gentleman’,(9) said Jack Fisher on another occasion. Eileen Power’s biography has been engagingly written by Maxine Berg, who captures her academic and social life in the 1920s and 1930s in a fascinating manner.
Tawney had been connected with LSE since 1912. He had studied classics at Oxford and had learnt economics by lecturing on the subject at the University of Glasgow (1906–8), after which he had conducted the original pioneering tutorial classes for the Workers’ Educational Association at Longton and at Rochdale. From 1917 Tawney was a Lecturer in Economic History at LSE, and a Reader from 1923. Besides his historical work, Tawney was increasingly well known in public life after 1918, when he stood as Labour Party candidate, serving on the Sankey Commission in 1919 as a representative of the Miners’ Federation, and on various Church of England commissions concerned with Christianity and industrial and ethical questions. His Acquisitive Society (10) made him well known, and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (11) made him very well known. Tawney and Power, close friends and colleagues, produced their three volumes of Tudor Economic Documents in 1924.(12) Two years later – the year when Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism appeared – together they produced the EHS.
Ephraim Lipson was a different kettle of fish. The son of a Jewish furniture dealer in Sheffield, he graduated from Cambridge with a first in history in 1910, but found no opening there and migrated to Oxford as a private tutor and independent researcher. The first volume of his Economic History of England (13) appeared in 1915 and his History of the Woollen and Worsted Industries (14) in 1921. He was disabled since being dropped as a small child and he was always conscious of being jeered at. He was a self-conscious outsider. He was very well-read but he did not shine like Tawney or sparkle like Power. However, he was creator of the Economic History Review, originally published by A. & C. Black, the publisher of his own books and for whom he was a consultant. He had first proposed an economic history equivalent of the English Historical Review to them in 1924.
When Eileen Power came to organise the economic history session at the second Anglo-American Conference of Historians at the Institute of Historical Research in July 1926, two strands fell carefully together. Sir William Ashley – as he now was, retired from the chair of Commerce that he had occupied at the University of Birmingham from 1901 to 1925 – was to give a paper on ‘the place of economic history in university studies’, and there was to be discussion of, as Eileen Power put it, ‘the new Economic History Society and the Economic History Review and other methods of promoting the subject’.(15) The meeting, on 14 July 1926, brought the Society into existence. The Review had already been initiated by a contract between A. & C. Black and Lipson and Tawney, signed on 11 May 1926 (during the General Strike). There had been preliminary meetings to discuss these matters from at least March 1926. Arthur Redford – Reader in Economic History at Manchester after Unwin’s death in 1925 – came from Manchester to a couple of committee meetings, and in his diary for 23 March he noted: ‘I got the impression we were being used as camouflage for Lipson’s scheming’!(16)
Lipson was trying to move quickly at this stage, since the Royal Economic Society (RES) had decided to produce a new economic history supplement to their Economic Journal. The first issue of Economic History was speedily produced and actually appeared in January 1926. Cambridge and Keynes were trying to outmanoeuvre Oxford and Lipson. Lipson, paranoid even without being persecuted, was forced into alliance with Tawney and Power, scholars enjoying the universal admiration denied to him. The first issue of the Economic History Review appeared in 1927, backed by the members of the new EHS. (Economic History continued to appear in strange rivalry until 1940; Keynes was not easily beaten). Lipson and Tawney were the joint editors of the Review, but Lipson did all the editorial work in Oxford, assisted by Miss Julia Mann, then a young Vice-Principal and subsequently Principal of St Hilda’s College in Oxford. She was working with A. P. Wadsworth, later editor of the Manchester Guardian and a student of Tawney’s from the WEA class at Rochdale, on their collaborative Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 1600–1780.(17)
Sir William Ashley duly became the first President of the Society, and his paper at the foundation meeting was published as the first article in the first number of the Economic History Review.(18) He was elderly and retired (he was to die in 1927). Eileen Power became the first Secretary of the Society, and she was the driving force. The early minutes are all kept in her distinctive round hand, and all the Society’s correspondence was dealt with by her aunt Ruby (Miss Clegg). By June 1927 a membership list was printed containing 529 individual names (a slight overestimate of the real membership, since they had not all paid their subscriptions) plus 148 libraries. Of the libraries as many as 115 were overseas, 77 of them in the United States. Americans numbered 79 of the individual members, by far the largest group of foreigners, with Canada and Germany following with nine each. There was an international flavour from the start, but the great bulk of members were British, and there was always a drive to recruit as many schoolmasters and schoolmistresses as possible. F. W. Tickner, nominally Joint Secretary with Eileen Power at the start, was a benign and earnest schoolmaster.
It proved very hard to add to the pioneering band of 500 or so who joined the Society at the beginning. The next 20 years saw membership falling rather than rising. It did not fall very much, only once dipping below 400 to 366 in 1945, the last year of the war. But expansion would have been more heartening, and there were perpetual worries throughout the 1930s about making ends meet. In 1933 it was necessary to send out letters marked Private and Urgent to correspondents all over the provinces asking them to recruit an additional ten members each. The appeal evidently did not work, and membership in 1934 fell slightly. The perpetual membership drives brought in a few distinguished foreigners, but the domestic market could not be deepened. Many of Eileen Power’s rich friends had to dig into their pockets.
The main change in the Society’s struggling but stable arrangements in the 1930s came in 1934 with the resignation of Lipson as editor of the Review. He had already resigned the Readership in Economic History at Oxford that he had held in succession to L. L. Price since 1922 (though without being able to achieve any college affiliation). In 1931 it had been decided to establish a Chichele chair of Economic History at Oxford, and Lipson had been keen to get it. He went to great lengths to get the other two volumes of his Economic History of England into the publisher’s hands, and at one point in 1931 A. & C. Black had 17 people working on the index. The books were published in the nick of time, but Lipson still failed to be appointed to the chair. It went to G. N. Clark (later Sir George Clark), a respectable figure though not a committed economic historian of the new style. Lipson, his paranoia confirmed, rejected Oxford in despair, and in 1934 he left the Review too. He travelled the world giving lectures wearing his mother’s wedding ring, and writing increasingly old-fashioned textbooks. Lipson lived on until 1960, but he severed his connections with economic history completely in 1934.
His successor as editor of the Review in 1934 was another outsider, but an altogether more glamorous, brilliant and quick-witted one: M. M. Postan (later Sir Michael Postan). Munia Postan (as he was known to his friends) erupted into London in 1921, when he registered as a part-time student at LSE. Accounts of where he had come from varied kaleidoscopically. Odessa figured large, but so did St Petersburg or perhaps Petrograd, Kiev, Czernowitz, Berlin and Amsterdam too. Lenin featured, and the Russian army, and the Zionist cause. At all events, he certainly took his degree at LSE in 1924 and a master’s degree in medieval economic history in 1926. He was a student of Eileen Power’s, and he became a collaborator in various works. From 1927 to 1931 he taught at University College London; from 1931 to 1934 he taught at LSE; in 1934 he moved to Cambridge as a lecturer; and in 1938 he succeeded Clapham there as Professor of Economic History. In 1934 he became sole editor of the Review and in 1937 he became sole husband of Eileen Power (a development that astonished many at the time). The EHS became a family business.
The outbreak of war in 1939 brought an era to a close, and the first period of the EHS came to an abrupt end in 1940 when Eileen Power suddenly dropped dead in the Tottenham Court Road. She and Postan had made their new home in Cambridge; when the war broke out, LSE was evacuated to Cambridge, and Postan joined the Ministry of Economic Warfare, based in the LSE buildings off the Aldwych in London. There had been an odd commuting reversal. Power’s death brought the Society to a full stop though various willing hands kept it going through the war. Postan also somehow managed to keep the Review going. The issues may have looked thin, but they were thin only physically. The subject was alive, and in good hands. But in 1945 the Society found itself with only 366 paid-up members (plus 228 library subscriptions), and the situation could well have been regarded as bleak as anything was in 1945.
However, things were about to change. The 30 years after 1946 were a different period to the first 20 years. Growth finally set in, and was most striking. Membership grew from the 400 paid-up members of 1946 to a peak of 2,576 paid-up members in the jubilee year of 1976. By an extraordinary coincidence, it was the jubilee year which was the peak. Economic history had never had it so good. It had grown beyond Eileen Power’s pre-war dreams.
There was a 1960s boom, but the growth was pretty constant from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. The Clapham Report in the late 1940s said there should be more social science; the Robbins Report in the early 1960s said there should be more universities. The sound of the reports was heard everywhere. There was more social science. There were more universities. Economic history hit the right note to be part of this long period of expansion.
When the Society was founded, it happened that there were no professors of the subject in Britain. J. H. Clapham quite rightly filled the new Cambridge chair in 1928. G. N. Clark was the new professor in Oxford in 1931, as noted above. In 1931 both Tawney and Power were promoted to chairs at LSE, Power to the established chair vacant since Mrs Knowles’s death, and Tawney to a new personal chair. Postan succeeded to Clapham’s chair in Cambridge in 1938, W. K. Hancock (later Sir Keith Hancock) was an eccentric choice to succeed Clark at Oxford in 1944, and in the same year T. S. Ashton was a significant – and, as it turned out, enormously influential – choice to fill the chair at LSE, vacant since Eileen Power’s death. These chairs at Cambridge, Oxford and LSE remained the only ones in the country, until the quadrilateral was restored in 1945 when Arthur Redford at Manchester was promoted to occupy the chair that had been Unwin’s.
In 1947 the first signs of expansion became evident on the professorial front, and W. H. B. Court became the holder of the first new chair at the University of Birmingham, where doubtless a tradition of economic history went back to Ashley and the Faculty of Commerce in the Edwardian period. The number of professors of the expanding subject more than doubled in the late 1950s: Dundee in 1957 (D. F. Macdonald), Glasgow in 1957 (S. G. Checkland), Bristol in 1958 (William Ashworth), Edinburgh (A. J. Youngson) and Nottingham (J. D. Chambers) in the same year, and Leeds in 1959 (M. W. Beresford). The expansion in the subject was becoming heady. Soon there were too many professors of the subject for them to be automatically included in Who’s Who.
In the 1960s the number of chairs doubled again, and chairs invariably meant separate independent departments of economic history. By 1970 there were chairs at Aberdeen (P. L. Payne), Belfast (K. H. Connell), Durham (F. C. Spooner), East Anglia (R. H. Campbell), Exeter (W. E. Minchinton), Kent (T. C. Barker), Leicester (R. Davis), Sheffield (S. Pollard), Strathclyde (S. G. E. Lythe), Sussex (B. E. Supple), Swansea (A. W. Cole) and York (E. M. Sigsworth). In 1950 Hancock was succeeded at Oxford by H. J. Habakkuk (Hrothgar Habakkuk to his friends, later Sir John Habakkuk), who in his turn was succeeded in 1968 by Peter Mathias. At the LSE F. J. Fisher – universally known as Jack – succeeded T. S. Ashton on his retirement in 1954. Postan retired at Cambridge in 1965 and was succeeded by David Joslin, who died young, and who was succeeded in turn in 1971 by D. C. Coleman. From 1953 E. M. Carus-Wilson was awarded a personal chair at LSE, as in 1965 was A. H. John. In 1970 Eric Hobsbawm was promoted to Professor of Economic and Social History at Birkbeck College.
To trace the history of all appointments and all departments in the 1970s and up to the present period is beyond the scope of this survey. By the 1970s the subject was evidently much bigger, much more mature, and enjoying growth and all the benefits of growth. The results were all made obvious on the occasion of the burgeoning conferences that the Society held every year with such success. Before the war, there had always been an AGM held at LSE. In the immediate post-war period, the AGM grew into a day conference held annually in May at LSE. In 1946 it was attended by 40, declining to 25 in 1947. Extended to two days in 1948 the attendance went back up to 40 and the numbers reached 60 in 1949. It was decided in 1950 to hold a residential conference in the Easter vacation, the first being held at the University of Birmingham, in acknowledgement of Court’s new professorship there, recognition of the growth of the subject outside the quadrilateral.
The second conference was held at Oxford one freezing weekend in 1951, and the first weekend (or so) of the Easter vacation ever since has seen the EHS taking on visible and convivial form at different universities throughout the country. The locations are all listed in an appendix. By the 1970s they were being attended by over 250 people each year, almost all of them the academic staff and the research students in all the booming departments of economic (often economic and social) history in practically every university in the country, and some of the ‘polytechnics’ too.
The growth of the subject is reflected in the numbers of members as shown on the graph. It is also evident in the quantity of material published in the Economic History Review. In 1948 the Review began to have three issues per year, in place of the original two. This was aided by a subvention from the RES. After 1971 there were four issues per year. By 1955 the Review was publishing 400 gripping pages per year, 600 by 1960 and over 750 in the early 1970s. By any yardstick, economic history was bubbling and booming and so was the EHS and the Economic History Review.
The Society was remarkably well-served by its officers over this long period of growth. All the post-war Presidents were people of distinction – first Tawney himself from 1946 to 1960, and Ashton, and then (after it was wisely decided to have a three-year term for the presidency) Postan, Carus-Wilson, Court, Sayers (a borrowing from economics – but acceptable, institutional, economics), Fisher, Checkland, Flinn. All these were scholars widely and unequivocally respected in the subject. Their successors – all listed with their dates in the appendix – have equally been highly respected and commanding and also much liked – Michael Thompson, Theo Barker, Peter Mathias, Barry Supple, Tony Wrigley and Patrick O’Brien.
In its secretaries the Society has also been extremely well-served. Eileen Power was a difficult act to follow. Sir Kenneth Berrill (as he became) and then Theo Barker ran the Society with great verve throughout the long post-war boom period, and Richard Wilson, David Jenkins and Rick Trainor have been outstandingly good and efficient in the role in more recent years. The Treasurers have been outstanding too. And the Editors of the Review have all been seriously central figures in the subject. All have been outstanding guardians of the direction of the subject, each of them most hard-working and some of the quickest minds of any in academic life.
At the time when I begin to sound like a glossy annual report, it is clearly time to stop. But I have to draw attention to the third period in the history of the subject as revealed in the graph. The growth in the number of members faltered in the early 1970s; a modest growth in the late 1970s was associated with the euphoria at the time of the jubilee conference in Cambridge in 1976. But by the end of the 1970s it was increasingly clear that the economic history boom was over. Numbers of individual members of the Society fell from the peak of over 2,500, at the time of the jubilee in 1976, gradually and inexorably to the level of somewhat under 1,500 as the 75th anniversary was reached in 2001. The beginnings of faltering growth in the early 1970s were disguised by a great boom in library sales of the Review facilitated by the enterprise of the publishers. For a time in the early 1970s over 5,000 copies of the Review were being read all over the world – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, were in scholarly piles all over the world waiting to be read.
The 50th anniversary of the Society in 1976 was an occasion of happy self-congratulation. The golden jubilee issue of the Economic History Review in 1977 contained an interesting discussion of the Society’s history by Theo Barker, and some quantitative analysis of the growth of the subject in bibliometric terms by me. It was not realised at the time that decline was about to set in. In the following year, 1977, institutional sales of the Review for the first time exceeded sales to individuals. In the 1950s and 1960s, 70 per cent or more of copies of the Review went to individuals who actually purchased it. After the late 1970s only roughly 40 per cent of sales were to individual purchasers or members. The institutional market through the 1980s and 1990s held up better than the individual market. Between 2,500 and 2,000 libraries continued to subscribe, while individual members seeped downwards from 2,500 to 1,500.
The Society is not yet reduced to wondering how to make ends meet. It has been remarkably well managed financially. Whether the subject has been well-managed in other ways is more open to question. Institutionally, it has certainly suffered quite a battering in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the booming separate departments of the 1950s and 1960s have been amalgamated with other departments, usually ‘history’ departments. Numbers of A-level candidates have fallen. Applicants for ‘economic history’ courses have declined, even after it was rendered more appealing through being called ‘economic and social history’. After 1981 ‘cuts’ began to hit universities, and apparently declining subjects were especially at risk. Economic history has been in a different world since the 1980s.
In intellectual terms, economic history had attained a great victory. By the 1980s, no history department was concerned with the narrow political and constitutional history that had characterised the subject when economic history was itself born institutionally. Economic and social history expanded within history, while social history, gender history, all sorts of cultural history became mainstream. But institutionally ‘economic history’ was vulnerable. The subject, as perceived in the period of post-war boom, suffered. In 1987 D.C. Coleman – a brilliantly able if powerfully unpredictable figure in the boom years – produced a book on the history of the subject with the subtitle: An Account of the Rise and Decline of Economic History in Britain.(19) When the Presidency of the Society was offered to Donald Coleman he rejected it in a flurry of complexity.
The Society itself had been comfortable about the period of growth. There was a launch into publishing more than the Review. In 1954 the Society produced the first volume of Essays in Economic History,(20) edited by E. M. Carus-Wilson, reprinting important articles largely from the Review. It was so successful that in 1962 two more volumes followed, reprinting articles drawn from a wider range of sources. In 1967 the Society entered into an agreement with Macmillan to publish a series of pamphlets on various aspects of the subject, all aimed at a wider market than the narrow if scholarly ‘supplements’ that had been produced infrequently alongside the Review.
As the decline of the late 1970s and 1980s began to impinge on the consciousness of a perhaps complacent subject (a decline evident in any statistical series: A-level candidates, applications for single-subject degrees in economic history, membership of the EHS, most obviously) the Society slowly began to think something should be done. At the height of the boom in the late 1960s, the Society had turned its attention from the long-established concern of ensuring the expansion of the subject in schools and universities to speaking up on behalf of a mature and expanding subject to the institutions which paid for the expansion. In particular, in 1966–7 there were long discussions with the newly-established Social Science Research Council (as it then was) in order to ensure that economic and social history was recognised as a discipline worth funding. The subject got its committee, and the subject got its research funding – for a time.
By the time of the ‘cuts’ after 1981, the Society was used to speaking for the subject as it existed in British universities, and it entered into ardent discussion with the then University Grants Committee (UGC) about the first ‘subject review’ and what emerged as the first ‘research assessment exercise’ in the late 1980s. There was much discussion with the British Academy, with other social science subject societies, with the UGC. The Society represented an established subject, and one still thought to be growing. But it never lost its concern with schools and the need to ensure a supply of potential students. As the number of members began to be seen to fall in the 1980s, some of the original concerns of the 1930s began to be revived. There were various drives to refresh the teaching of economic and social history in schools including the establishment of the ReFRESH pamphlet series.
A major initiative came after 1987. The Council meeting at the Norwich conference in that year anguished over a proposal to establish a ‘women’s committee’. It was forcefully pointed out that 20 per cent of the membership at the time of the foundation had been women, and that the proportion of the much greater total had sunk to 10 per cent. What was the Society to do about this? Nothing, thought many. Get something going here, argued some. The activists turned out to achieve a majority, carrying the vote at a dramatic Council meeting, reconvened at midnight after the conference bar closed. The Women’s Committee of the Society turned out not to be a divisive influence, as had been feared. In the course of the 1990s the committee came to hold meetings both at the annual conference and in London in November, and these meetings turned out to be some of the most intellectually exciting and challenging occasions which the Society had ever organised, rivalling its traditional Easter residential conference in interest.
The Society found itself on the occasion of its 75th anniversary in robust financial health. Intellectually, the subject has so overwhelmed the old narrow political history that ‘history’ has been transformed as a subject. Economics has retreated to narrow mathematical concerns in a way that would shock Marshall. Economics generally ignores economic history; history, by contrast, has incorporated economic history with enthusiasm. This leaves ‘economic history’ in an undecided position. The core of the subject itself flourishes in every way. The institutional indicators are, however, all registering decline.
If Tawney were able to be with us, he would surely be fascinated by the way in which the concerns of the subject have become less dominated by the old political history, impressed by the way in which our interests have become more sociological and cultural, as well as much more international, just as he argued they should at the founding meeting in 1926. Even Lipson might lurk around and find us endlessly tolerant of the disadvantaged, the eccentric and the antiquarian.
‘The beginnings of the Economic History Society’ are interestingly chronicled by T. C. Barker in the golden jubilee number of the Economic History Review, 2nd. ser., 30 (1) (1977), 1–19, which also contains N. B. Harte, ‘Trends in publications on the economic and social history of Great Britain and Ireland, 1925–74’, 20–41 (a subject to be continued in a forthcoming article with Giorgio Riello covering the ensuing quarter-century up to 2000). The origins of the subject more generally are surveyed in ‘The making of economic history’, the introduction in The Study of Economic History: Collected Inaugural Lectures, 1893–1970, ed. N. B. Harte (London, 1971).
The whole subject is surveyed brilliantly and quirkily in D. C. Coleman, History and the Economic Past: an Account of the Rise and Decline of Economic History in Britain (Oxford, 1987). Less exciting but more scholarly accounts of the origins of economic history as a discipline in Britain are provided in Alon Kadish, Historians, Economists, and Economic History (London, 1989) and Gerard M. Koot, English Historical Economics, 1870–1926 (Cambridge, 1987).
Maxine Berg, A Woman in History: Eileen Power, 1889–1940 (Cambridge, 1996) is entrancing, and full of insights. Ross Terrill’s R. H. Tawney and his Times (London, 1974), and all the other general writing about Tawney, is much less interesting from a historical point of view. J. M. Winter’s ‘Tawney the historian’, prefaced to his edition of History and Society: Essays by R. H. Tawney (London, 1978) and David Ormrod, ‘R. H. Tawney and the origins of capitalism’, History Workshop Journal, 18 (1984), 138–59 are both clear, comprehensive and required reading. There is nothing on Lipson. Maxine Berg, ‘The first women economic historians’, Economic History Review, 45 (2) (1992), 308–29, is lively.
An interesting and comprehensive analysis of the editing and the contents of the Economic History Review is provided by E. A. Wrigley, ‘The review during the last 50 years’, available on the Economic History Society’s website. R. G. Wilson and J. F. Hadwin, ‘Economic and social history at advanced level’, Economic History Review, 38 (4) (1985), 548–68 is a survey of the subject with wider implications than the title implies, written at a time when the implications of decline were beginning to be considered.
The archives of the Economic History Society are comprehensively catalogued and are now kept at the LSE Library. For recent times, there are more and more records generated, and we also have our memories.
Dr Negley Harte is a Senior Lecturer in History at University College London. This essay is reproduced by kind permission of the Economic History Society, a version of it having been originally published in Living Economic and Social History, ed. Pat Hudson (Glasgow, 2001).