YANN GIRAUD

History of Economics and Social Sciences

Famous Figures and Diagrams in Economics

Roger Backhouse and myself have written an entry on the Circular Flow Diagram in this recently published book on diagrams and figures in economics, which reads like a dictionary. Some of the other entries study economic diagrams from a historical point of view while some others offer a more analytical approach and attempt to appraise the usefulness of these figures for current practitioners. The introduction by the Editors, Mark Blaug and Peter Lloyd, is a good starting point for economists who want to understand how visual representation has been useful in constructing and diffusing economic knowledge (In addition, they kindly cite my Samuelson paper!). Here is what the Edward Elgar website says about the book:

Edited by Mark Blaug, Professor Emeritus, University of London and Professor Emeritus, University of Buckingham, UK and Peter Lloyd, Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, University of Melbourne, Australia

This is a unique account of the role played by 58 figures and diagrams commonly used in economic theory. These cover a large part of mainstream economic analysis, both microeconomics and macroeconomics and also general equilibrium theory.

The authoritative contributors have produced a well-considered and definitive selection including some from empirical research such as the Phillips curve, the Kuznets curve and the Lorenz curve. Almost all of them are still found in contemporary textbooks and research. Each entry presents an accurate and concise record of the history of the figure or diagram, including later developments and any controversy that arose in its development. As a whole, the book highlights how the use of geometric methods has played a central part in the development of economic theory and analysis; as a method of discovery, more commonly as a method of exposition and occasionally as a method of proof of propositions in economic theory and analysis.
This highly anticipated book will appeal to theorists in microeconomics or macroeconomics, scholars of economic theory and analysis, as well as students in microeconomics, general equilibrium theory or macroeconomics at the advanced undergraduate or graduate level who want a definitive account of some figure or diagram. Historians of economic thought and methodologists will also find this book an invaluable resource.

‘A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. A picture can easily be worth two or three equations, and it is certainly more memorable. I can draw and use an Edgeworth box more quickly than I can write down its formulas. There is a vast amount of economics packed into the 58 diagrams and expert commentaries in this unique book. Take it with you to your favourite desert island. All you need is a sandy beach and a pointed stick.’ – Robert Solow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
‘This book is a goldmine of information and interpretation for historians of economics, and thoughtful economists of all kinds. The origin and evolution of important figures and diagrams in economics will now be instantly at their fingertips. The authors of the entries are a galaxy of distinguished economists and historians whose accounts can be trusted. One must ask why no one has put together such a collection before.’– Craufurd Goodwin, Duke University, US

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