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Managing markets and money: issues and institutions in Dutch nineteenth-century economics

Evert Schoorl and Henk W. Plasmijer
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Henk W. Plasmijer: Groningen University

No 200407, CCSO Working Papers from University of Groningen, CCSO Centre for Economic Research

Abstract: Dutch nineteenth-century economics was more modern than conventional scholarship has suggested. In a number of studies of individual economists and of the formal aspects of academia, it has been concluded that at least before 1870 there were no original contributions by Dutch economists and there was a general academic backwardness of the discipline. Here we try to examine simultaneously the issues of the day and the institutional setting of academic and political economic discourse. We concentrate upon the discussion of markets, in particular the question of free trade, and the discussion of money, in particular the problems of regulating the national debt and the currency. Our picture will be that in the new Kingdom of the Netherlands economics was embraced as the science of modernity, that very soon many courses of the subject were taught in the law faculties, and that a considerable number of university professors engaged in practical policy issues. In our opinion, there is more continuity in the economic thought of Van Hogendorp (who never held a university chair) and of Ackersdijck, Mees and Pierson than most historians of Dutch economics have perceived. The fact that the latter two have also been presidents of the central bank is significant for the importance of this institution in the history of Dutch economics. We conclude that in the first two decades of the century, the new discipline gained ground outside and inside academia. From around 1820 it was well established as a subject in the law faculties, and professors like Tydeman and Ackersdijck were seen as respected authorities in the public debate on economic issues. The year 1848 saw the acceptance of a new liberal constitution and the take-off of economics as an organised community with its own specific role in Dutch society.

Date: 2004
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