LSE and the History of Economic Thought
Robert Cord discusses the role played by the LSE in the history of economic thought.
The London School of Economics has been and continues to be one of the foremost global centres for researching and teaching of economics. Founded in 1895, the School was for the two decades of its existence overshadowed, at least when it came to the discipline of economics, by Cambridge University. However, spurred on by the work and activities of some of its early professors, notably Edwin Cannan, the LSE soon found itself at the forefront of the various economics debates which raged in the 1920s and 1930s. Leading the charge for the School was the formidable figure of Lionel, later Lord, Robbins, who was prepared to go up against the equally dominant John Maynard Keynes (who was also to become a peer) at Cambridge. However, Robbins was not on his own. He recruited a host of other economists, many of whom would go on to become important in their own right, to help him strengthen the economics offering coming out of LSE, most notable amongst them being Friedrich von Hayek and John Hicks.
As well as Robbins and his acolytes, LSE was producing other economists who would go on to achieve worldwide notoriety. For example, Ronald Coase came through the ranks at the School, first as a student in the 1930s and then, after a short interval, securing an appointment on the staff before leaving for the USA in the early 1950s. It was whilst he was at LSE that Coase’s highly influential 1937 article, The Nature of the Firm, appeared, it being one of the reasons why Coase was later to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics. In the 1950s, the School was also home to Bill Phillips of Phillips Curve fame.
In more recent decades, at least two key areas of contributions to economics can be identified. First, LSE was home to a number of eminent econometricians, spearheaded by James Durbin, who specialised in the analysis of economic time series and serial correlation, and Denis Sargan, whose expertise was also in time series. Second has been the important work of the School’s labour economists, led by Richard (Lord) Layard, with a particular focus on unemployment and matching theory, the latter resulting in a Nobel Prize for LSE economist Chris Pissarides in 2010. In the last few years, Layard has also become a leading figure in the research of the economics of happiness.
These currents of thought and more are brought together in the forthcoming volume entitled The Palgrave Companion to LSE Economics, edited by Robert Cord. With six chapters on themes in LSE economics and 29 chapters on the lives and work of LSE economists, The Palgrave Companion to LSE Economics shows how economics became established at the School, how it produced some of the world’s best-known economists, and how it remains a global force in economics. With original contributions from a stellar cast, The Palgrave Companion to LSE Economics provides economists – especially those interested in macroeconomics and the history of economic thought – with the first in-depth analysis of LSE economics.
The next volume in the series will be The Palgrave Companion to Oxford Economics, to appear in 2020. We then cross the pond to examine the influence of American universities, notably MIT, Chicago, and Harvard.
Robert A. Cord holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and his areas of interest include the history of economic thought and, within this, the history of macroeconomics. His publications include Reinterpreting the Keynesian Revolution (2012), The Palgrave Companion to Cambridge Economics (editor; 2017) and Milton Friedman: Contributions to Economics and Public Policy (co-editor; 2016).