Log In

Donald Nansen McCLOSKEY


Donald Nansen McCLOSKEY, economist in the field of European Economic History; Economic Methodology; Economic History: General. David A. Wells Prize, Harvard University, 1970-1971; Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, 1983.


McCLOSKEY, Donald Nansen was born in 1942 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.


Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy Harvard University, 1964, 1967, 1970.


Assistant Professor, University Chicago, 73. Economics Visiting Assistant Professor, Stanford University, 1972. Association Professor, Association Professor History, University Chicago, 1973-1980, 1979-1980.

Visiting Fellow, American National University, 1982. Member, Institute, Institution Advanced Study, Princeton, 4. Visiting Professor, University York, Canada, .

Professor Economics and History, University Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, United States of America, since 1980. Editorial Boards, Journal of Economic History, 80, Explorations Economics History, 1974-1979, Economics and Philosophy, since 1983, J. British Studies, since 1983.


  • David A. Wells Prize, Harvard University, 1970-1971. Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, 1983.


A secondgeneration cliometrician, my dissertation work with Alexander Gerschenkron applied quantitative tools to the hypothesis of British entrepreneurial failure in the late 19th century. I was among the co-discoverers of the failure of the hypothesis and of the success of neoclassical economics in British economic history. By a small extension, encouraged by the intellectual turmoil in trade theory at Chicago in the late 1960s, it proved possible to show its success in retelling the story of British foreign trade in the twentieth century.

Extension of economics was much in the air at Chicago c. 1970, suggesting its use to illumine the Old Poor Law, contra Blaug, and the Gold Standard, contra the received wisdom. The extension into the new institutional economics was the occasion for a study of the enclosures in British agriculture during the eighteenth century, which led to a ten-year project on the economics of the system that replaced medieval open fields. The attempt to communicate these wonders to students, historians, and other incognoscenti led in two directions: on the one hand, the writing of a problem-oriented textbook in economics, an economically-oriented textbook in British economic history, and various other projects of instructing the young and, on the other, it led to unease about the way adults in economics communicate.

Beginning with the rhetoricians at Chicago and the University of Iowa, this in turn led to a project of applying literary criticism to economics, examining the fairy tale that economists persuade themselves by scientific methods. The longer-term purpose is to reunify economics with history, and mathematical with literary ways of thinking.