A new blog has been established which will be of great interest to those interested in the history of political economy by Irwin Collier of the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies of Freie Universität Berlin-- Economics in the Rear-View Mirror, Archival Artifacts from the History of Economics.
Some of the material already available includes Chamberlin’s 1938 reading list for Harvard’s graduate theory course Economics 101, a comparison of graduate courses offered at the major universities in 1898-99, etc. The title of Irwin's main research project is "Origins of the Graduate Economics Canon in the United States, The Economics Departments of Columbia, Chicago and Harvard during the First Half of the 20th Century” and the interview above addresses this project in general.
I have always been fascinated by the continuities and discontinuities in the evolution of economic thought from Adam Smith onwards. Next semester I am changing my History of Economic Thought graduate course to be a history of the evolution of price theory from Marshall to Milgrom-Roberts (roughly 1890-1990), and one of the main themes I'd like to develop in that course is what was "common-knowledge" among all trained economists at various times, and what in that "common-knowledge" traveled through time, and what was lost as the science and its instruction transitioned from one time period to another.
Economic theory to my mind is a golden key that unlocks all the mysteries of the universe involving the doings of human beings. My goal as an economist is to deploy that golden key to make sense of the senseless, and my goal as a teacher is to invite others into this inquiry. But as a scholar, I have always been fascinated at the story of the keepers of the golden key so to speak -- how they debated with each other, how they organized themselves into research groups and professional associations, and how they tried to teach others about the golden key of economic thinking through time. So I am fascinated by Irwin's project and the artifacts of our profession. Two things I am particularly interested in are: (a) the PhD curriculum at the various schools, and (b) the PhD core exams in microeconomics at the various schools. How different was economics taught at Chicago from Harvard?; and how has that changed over time?