European Society for the History of Economic Thought

Narrative in Economics: Historical Experiences

3-4 September 2021 online

The history of the usage of narrative in economics is an unwritten story. This workshop will explore the historical use of narrative in economists’ writings - whether they do so in describing observations, in making inferences or arguments, or in laying out law-like claims.

This is an excellent moment for such a workshop: we have two current economists in the public eye talking and writing about something they each call ‘narrative economics’ Robert Shiller and Christina Romer. 

The former is concerned with social/public narratives of current financial events; the latter undertakes detailed investigations into the historical verbal records of decisions about financial markets in order to pinpoint those decision factors.

Our focus here is rather different: we are interested in economists’ use of narrative in their own economic writings. 

The historical record is potentially rich, as is the range of narrative forms they have used. 

The classical economists engaged in broad narratives to understand and portray the engines of growth and distribution. 

The marginalists used mini-narratives to explicate their new theories of value. 

Early game theory had anecdotal narratives dictating the rules of a game that indicated that game’s identity. 

Narratives have often accompanied applied economics results: in attempts to understand unexpected behavioural patterns in the early classroom experiments; alongside statistical tests in discussions of applied econometrics; and in arguments about the behaviour of the macro-economy.

The workshop will be online in early September 2021, likely 3-4th.  The aim is to discuss 1st drafts of papers for a special issue of History of Political Economy.  Please send your ideas – short abstracts – to the workshop joint-organisers by April 5th:

Mary S. Morgan

Tom Stapleford: