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Economics in the Shadow of the First World War

Editor of special issue: Chris Godden (University of Manchester)

Expression of interest: 19 December 2014.

Deadline for submission: 1 September 2015.

Planned publication of the issue: 2016.

The centenary of the First World War has generated a plethora of publications, conferences and workshops exploring various aspects of the conflict. It is apparent from these that the trend of historiography has concentrated on comparative approaches detailing the social and cultural histories of the war, with consideration of the economic aspects relegated to a rather lowly position. There are some notable works detailing the economic history of the war, particularly connected with national economic policies and the mobilisation of combatant economies (Broadberry and Harrison, 2005), but these are by far the exception. Looking beyond the economic history of the war, it quickly becomes apparent that the relationship between the war and the history of economic thought is a much neglected area of investigation.

An examination of material published during the conflict—included in, for example, the Economic Journal, the American Economic Review, La Revue d'économie politique and Giornale degli Economisti – highlights a range of contemporary topics and debates, moving from the impact of the war on various economies (both combatants and neutrals) through to issues of post-war reconstruction. This war-time economic literature illustrates how economists actively responded to the economic, social, and policy problems thrown up by the anarchy of military conflict e.g. the speed with which the forces of competitive destruction replaced those of competitive production; how the inability of classical liberal-market economics to deliver the required volume of armaments necessitated dramatic reorganisation of combatant economies; and the ethical appropriateness of war-time policy decisions that threw huge economic burdens on future generations. The long, grim struggle of the war also provided professional economists with opportunities to offer their opinions on possible forces that would propel or imped eventual reconstruction. Finally, we cannot ignore the post-war activities of economists in commenting on the economic and political consequences of the conflict, the most famous example of which is Keynes’s The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919).

Work by Barber (1992a, 1992b) has provided some analysis of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century thought regarding the economics of war, while Carabelli and Cedrini (2010) and Barnett (2001, 2009) have examined various aspects of Keynes’s war-time and early post-war ideas and activities. Yet much of the war-time and post-war economic literature remains largely unexplored. A brief survey of this contemporary literature—including work by Clark (1916), Edgeworth (1915, 1917), Gide and Daudé-Bancel (1926), Marshall (1917), Nicholson (1919), Pigou (1917, 1919, 1921), Rist (1921) and Seligman (1916, 1918) —demonstrates that war-time and early post-war economics is a rich and diverse area of research for historians of economic thought.

The study of this war-time and post-war literature raises questions for the history of economic thought, reflected in the impact of industrialised mass warfare on the development of economics, and the role of the discipline as the faithful servant to both the war-maker and the peace-maker. With these themes in mind, Œconomia – History / Methodology / Philosophy wishes to publish a special issue exploring the intellectual history of economics surrounding the First World War. The intention is to cover aspects of war-time economic thought and economic history in relation to several nations, including, but not limited to, Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United States.

A non-exhaustive list of potential subjects includes:

  • Interpretations of the economic causes of the war.

  • Economics of war currency and finance.

  • Monetary theory (wartime inflation, quantitative theory).

  • Measurement of capital and the economic cost of war.

  • War-economic organisation and the structuring of economic mobilisation.

  • Institutional innovations brought about by the war.

  • Competing economic/political responses to war-time economic organisation and planning.

  • Position of women in the war economies.

  • Economics of migrations.

  • Wartime debates surrounding the transition to peace (economic dislocation, war debt, problems of reconstruction).

  • The public role of economists during the war.

Authors are invited to express their interest to participate in the special issue by 19 December 2014, by sending an e-mail to indicating the main theme of their contribution.

Submission are to be made on the Œconomia submission platform at :


Barber, William J. 1992a. British and American Economists and Attempts to Comprehend the Nature of War, 1910–20. In Economics and National Security: A History of their Interaction, C.D. Goodwin (ed.), 61-86. North Carolina: Duke University Press.

Barber, William J. 1992b. From the Economics of Welfare to the Economics of Warfare (and back) in the Thought of A.C. Pigou. In Economics and National Security: A History of their Interaction, C.D. Goodwin (ed.), 131-142. North Carolina: Duke University Press.

Barnett, Vincent. 2001. Calling up the Reserves: Keynes, Tugan-Baranovsky and Russian War Finance. Europe-Asia Studies, 53(1): 151-169.

Barnett, Vincent 2009. Keynes and the Non-Neutrality of Russian War Finance during World War One. Europe-Asia Studies, 61(5): 797-812.

Broadberry, Stephen and Mark Harrison (eds). 2005. The Economics of World War I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carabelli, Anna M. and Mario A. Cedrini. 2010. Keynes and the Complexity of International Economic Relations in the Aftermath of World War I. Journal of Economic Issues, 44(4): 1009-1027.

Clark, John Bates. 1916. The Economic Costs of War. American Economic Review, 6(1): 85-93.

Edgeworth, Francis Y. 1915. On the Relations of Political Economy to War. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Edgeworth, Francis Y. 1917. Some German Economic Writings About the War. Economic Journal, 27(106): 238-250.

Gide, Charles and A. Daudé-Bancel. 1926. De la lute contre la cherté par les organisations privées, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Keynes, John Maynard. 1919. The Economic Consequences of the Peace, London: Macmillan & Co Ltd.

Marshall, Alfred. 1917. National Taxation After The War. In After-War Problems, W.H. Dawson (ed.), 313-345. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Nicholson, Joseph Shield. 1919. Inflation. London: P.S. King & Son Ltd.

Pigou, Arthur Cecil. 1917. The Economics of the War Loan. Economic Journal, 27(105): 16-25.

Pigou, Arthur Cecil. 1919. The Burden of War and Future Generations. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 33(2): 242-255.

Pigou, Arthur Cecil. 1921. The Political Economy of War. London: Macmillan & Co Ltd.

Rist, Charles. 1921. Les Finances de Guerre de l’Allemagne. Paris: Payot & Cie.

Seligman, Edwin R. A. 1916. The Economic Influence of the War on the United States. Economic Journal, 26(102): 145-160.

Seligman, Edwin R. A. 1918. Loans versus Taxes in War Finance. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 75: 52-82.

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