Echoes: New Group Blog in Business and Economic History

12 12 2011

For some time now, I have been saying that historians have to participate in present-day debates about the economy. For far too long, the media have relied on the expertise of scholars just one discipline, economics. It is nice to see, however, that Bloomberg is now hosting a blog in which historians show how business and economic history are relevant understanding the day’s business news.

Stephen Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, runs the Echoes blog. Along with Phil Scranton and John B. Taylor, Mihm is responsible for arranging for historians to write short posts on current events.

Full disclosure: I absolutely loved Mihm’s 2007 book A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States.

Here is Mihm’s description of the blog’s function:

That idea animates our revamped “Echoes” blog, dedicated to the history of economics, business, finance and, above all, capitalism. Our contributors will aim to unearth parallels between past and present, highlighting how the economic crises of our own era are perhaps not as unique as we think.

What we cover will be driven largely by current events. And, if history is any guide, the coming months and years will be dominated by the reverberations from the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. A crew of historians will weigh in on how our own hard times measure up against the Great Depression.

The echoes, of course, will reach back further and range more widely than the 20th century. We’ll try to connect the speculative bubbles of 18th-century Europe with the sub-prime crises of the 21st century; or the breakneck economic growth of the U.S. 200 years ago with the meteoric rise of China today.

Many of history’s best economic stories can’t be reduced to numbers and charts. They’re dramatic tales of hubris, innovation, brilliance and luck — of people caught in the grips of forces that they don’t fully comprehend. We’ll be trying to tell those stories here.

The blog went live on 3 November. Since then, there have been a number of excellent posts, including Bob Wright on violence in the history of Wall Street (see here),  Phil Scranton’s article “This Week in Depression Economics,”  (see here) and a piece by Regina Lee Blaszczyk comparing Steve Jobs with the entrepreneurs involved in Britain’s Industrial Revolution (see here)

You can follow the blog here.

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