The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics has a long and illustrious history. It started life in the late nineteenth century as R. H. Inglis Palgrave’s Dictionary of Political Economy (1894-9). This was a landmark in both publishing and economics: a liberal and scholarly overview of the whole sphere of economic thought in its day. It was then revised by Henry Higgs as Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy (1923-6). This edition retained the spirit of the original publication while embracing new concepts in the development of economics as a discipline.

The resource as we know it now was first published in 1987 as The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, edited by John Eatwell, Murray Milgate and Peter Newman. It arrived to international acclaim. Its scope had expanded and evolved, but the tradition of drawing together eminent contributors from across the spectrum of methodological and ideological schools produced not only an unsurpassed work of reference on the grand scale, but also many individual classic essays of enduring importance.

In 2008, Palgrave Macmillan published The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition, edited by Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. While some classic articles from the 1987 edition were retained, around 80% of the text was either entirely new or substantially rewritten to reflect the depth of change within the discipline. The 2008 edition retained the inspiring tradition of bringing together the world's most influential economists writing in their own voices and areas of expertise.

Throughout its history, the Dictionary has played host to the work of the Nobel Laureates in Economics, including such luminaries as Clive Granger, Joseph Stiglitz and Roger Myerson.

Since 2008 articles have continued to be produced and published online, allowing scholars to access entries in a more dynamic and sophisticated way. The dynamic living reference edition can be found at: https://link.springer.com/referencework/10.1057/978-1-349-95121-5

In 2018 the Dictionary celebrated the launch of its third edition at the American Economic Association conference in Philadelphia. At 20 volumes and over 17,000 pages, it is the largest edition to date. The Dictionary is in the process of being renewed for a fourth edition and the Editors-in-Chief are Matías Vernengo, Bucknell University; Esteban Pérez Caldentey, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and J. Barkley Rosser, Jr, James Madison University.