Keith Tribe, Constructing Economic Science: The Invention of a Discipline 1850-1950 – OUP, December 2021

Keith Tribe, Constructing Economic Science: The Invention of a Discipline 1850-1950 – OUP, December 2021. Only expensive hardback and e-book at the moment, unfortunately.

During the late nineteenth century concerns about international commercial rivalry were often expressed in terms of national provision for training and education, and the role of universities in such provision. It was in this context that the modern university discipline of economics emerged. The first undergraduate economics program was inaugurated in Cambridge in 1903; but this was merely a starting point. 

Constructing Economic Science charts the path through commercial education to the discipline of economics and the creation of an economics curriculum that could then be replicated around the world. Rather than describing this transition epistemologically, as a process of theoretical creation, Keith Tribe shows how the new “science” of economics was primarily an institutional creation of the modern university. He demonstrates how finance, student numbers, curricula, teaching, new media, the demands of employment, and more broadly, the international perception that industrializing economies required a technically-skilled workforce, all played their part in shaping economics as we know it today. This study explains the conditions originally shaping the science of economics, providing in turn a foundation for an understanding of the way in which this new language transformed public policy.

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