Educating Future — and Current — Economists About Their Past
The Pope Foundation’s new Grantee Profile focuses on the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University, an academic center designed to teach the origins of one of the most essential disciplines of all time — economics:
Human beings are fascinated by stories of origins: How life began, how nations were founded, how civilizations rise and fall, and how concepts were developed.
Jumping off that natural interest in beginnings, Dr. Bruce Caldwell has established a world-class academic center at Duke University —the Center for the History of Political Economy — designed to teach the origins of one of the most essential disciplines of all time: economics.
That’s an important mission, because the history of economic thought is all-too-often overlooked in economics curriculum. Many recently graduated economists understand current theories and practice, but lack a firm grasp of their profession’s history — where theories originated, and who originated them.
Caldwell is on a mission to push back that frontier of ignorance.
“We’re trying to change the culture of the economics profession, to get economists more interested in their history,” Caldwell said. “But you don’t change academic institutions overnight. It’s a long-term process.”
That process began in fall of 2008 when Caldwell launched the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University, with critical support from the John William Pope Foundation. The Foundation committed $875,000 to the Center between 2008 and 2013.