In this essay I review Sylvia Nasar’s long awaited new history of economics, Grand Pursuit. I describe how the book is really an economic history of the period from 1850-1950, with distinguished economists’ stories inserted in appropriate places. Nasar’s goal is to show how economists work, but also to show that they are people too--with more than enough warts and foibles to show they are human! I contrast the general view of the role of economics in Grand Pursuit with Robert Heilbroner’s remarkably different conception in The Worldly Philosophers. I also discuss more generally the question of why economists might be interested in their history at all.
Published as “Economic history or history of economics?” Review of Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, Center for Economic Policy Studies, Working Papers: 1365. Journal of Economic Literature, March 2012, 50(1), 96-102.
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