The Reinterpretation of American Economic History

  • Donald N. McCloskey
Part of the Studies in Economic and Social History book series (SESH)


The claim of the historical economists to have ‘reinterpreted’ American economic history — the word was used in the title of a collection edited by Fogel and Engerman — was only a little bold in 1971. By now it is fully justified. Another fat volume published about the same time, which also collected pieces from the major reinterpreters, declared itself to be American Economic Growth: An Economist’s History of the United States [Davis Easterlin, Parker et al., 1972]. The piling up of historical economics since 1957 certainly does justify a reinterpretation of American economic history in the economist’s way. By now numerous textbooks do so: Brownlee [1974], Gray and Peterson [1974], Niemi [1975], Temin [1975], Vedder [1976], Lee and Passell [1979], Ratner, Soltow and Sylla [1979], North, Anderson and Hill [1983], Hughes [1983] and Lebergott [1984]. Whatever their methodological approach the texts are dominated by the new findings. The Encyclopedia of American Economic History [1980], edited by Glenn Porter, contains a high proportion of cliometric articles. The Bibliography of Historical Economics, as noted earlier, contains over 4500 items. Only a few are selected here.


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Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald N. McCloskey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of lowaUSA

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