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The Rise and Fall and Rise (?) of Economic History in Australia

Andrew Seltzer, Martin Shanahan () and Claire Wright

No 5, CEH Discussion Papers from Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University

Abstract: In this paper we examine the history of the economic history discipline in Australia. While the discipline’s main focus over time has been Australia, we trace its evolution from its English-influenced roots through its concern with colonial development, and dalliance with business history to its later incorporation of cliometrics, comparative studies and more recently Asian topics. The origins of the discipline date back to the early-1900s. After the Second World War, there was a rapid expansion, with free-standing economic history departments established in several leading Australian universities. From the beginnings, quantitative economic history was relatively strong in Australia, largely because of excellent colonial and post-Federation records. However, from the 1980’s, a more corporatist approach to university management led to a decline in Australian economic history and particularly cliometric work. In the 1990s and early-2000s, the free-standing departments were all closed, and the hiring of economic historians virtually ceased. In the past decade, there has been something of a revival, with economic history increasingly seen as a core subject in both history and economics departments. In addition to examining the history of the discipline, we also look at some challenges for the future, focussing on the collection of still unextracted historical data and its usefulness in addressing various topics.

Date: 2022-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-his and nep-hpe
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