As mentioned last week (see here), Sudha Shenoy believes that most economists do not know much about economic history. When one realizes that economists are not even trained in the history of their own discipline anymore, it is not surprising to know that their knowledge of economic history is rather poor. Clearly, economic history has become a specialty that most economists disregard.
A thin approach to empirical issues is what is rewarded in modern economics, as it is a more powerful and convenient way to test hypotheses. However, many—if not most—questions cannot find their answers through data crunching only. A thick approach is often more desirable. It consists of examining historical records and understanding the motivations of people in light of good theory. In this sense, historical analysis is the best way we have to talk to the witnesses of a period.
Shenoy has promoted this approach in her work. She sent me a reading list for PhD students who are interested in (economic) history and want to become economists who regard historical analysis as an essential companion. Thank you to Sudha Shenoy for this reading list. Enjoy!