Monday, April 16, 2018

Diane Lindstrom (1944-2018)

At the risk of making this seem like a blog of economic history obituaries, I think it is necessary to note the passing of Diane Lindstrom. Here is the obituary from the University of Wisconsin.
Along with Robert Gallman, Lawrence Herbst, Paul Uselding and others Lindstrom challenged the version of American antebellum growth presented in Doug North’s Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860. In Economic Growth Doug argued that growth was driven by a combination of cotton exports and interregional trade, in which Southern specialization in cotton generated demand for the products of farmers and manufacturers, driving growth in the rest of the country. Although some new historians of capitalism continue to cite the theory to demonstrate the central role of slavery in American economic development, Lindstrom and others had built a strong case against it by the mid-1970s.

She generated evidence to argue that the South was largely self-sufficient in grain:
Lindstrom, Diane. "Southern Dependence upon Interregional Grain Supplies: A Review of the Trade Flows, 1840-1860." Agricultural History 44, no. 1 (1970): 101-113.

And she went on to build an alternative explanation of growth based on the case of Philadelphia. She showed that the development in Philadelphia was largely driven by the regional market, rather than an inter-regional one:

Lindstrom, Diane L. "Demand, Markets, and Eastern Economic Development: Philadelphia, 1815-1840." Journal of Economic History (1975): 271-273; Lindstrom, Diane. Economic Development in the Philadelphia Region, 1810-1850. Columbia University Press, 1978; and Lindstrom, Diane. "American economic growth before 1840: New evidence and new directions." The Journal of Economic History 39, no. 1 (1979): 289-301.

Subsequent economic historians have expanded on her work. John Majewski, for instance, builds on Lindstrom’s argument by contrasting the case of Philadelphia with Virginia, showing how slavery led to conditions that did not promote strong local demand or support long term growth: A house dividing: Economic development in Pennsylvania and Virginia before the Civil War. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

I did not know her personally, but anyone interested in understanding American economic development needs to know the argument she developed and the evidence that she collected to support it.

By the way, if anyone is surprised that I, a student of Doug’s, am posting this you should know that the third edition of North’s Growth and Welfare in the American Past (coauthored with Terry Anderson and Peter Hill) states that “The spread of the cotton economy in the South and the development of the cotton export trade are elements of a well known story. It now appears, however, that economic historians have overemphasized the pattern of regional interdependence among the South, the West, and the Northeast (page 72)” and cites Lindstrom in the bibliography for that chapter. Doug once told me that the only good thing about getting old was that he knew lots of things that did not work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

John Murray

Sad news. John was both an excellent economic historian and a really nice guy. Below is the text of the email about his death from He will be missed by many people and in many ways.

John Murray, Joseph R. Hyde III Professor of Political Economy and Professor of Economics at Rhodes College, passed away on March 27, 2018 in Memphis, TN at the age of 58. 
He was born on April 9, 1959 in Cincinnati, and became the first member of his family to attend college.  He worked at a variety of jobs to pay his tuition, including phlebotomist, house painter, roofer, and ice cream vendor, graduating in 1981 from Oberlin College with a degree in economics.  He later added an M.S. in mathematics from the University of Cincinnati, and the M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from The Ohio State University, where he wrote his dissertation under the tutelage of Rick Steckel.
John taught high school math before pursuing his graduate work in economics.  After finishing at Ohio State, he accepted a position at the University of Toledo, where he remained for 18 years before accepting the Hyde Professorship at Rhodes College in 2011.
He had a lifelong penchant for learning, spending a summer studying the German language in Schwabish Hall in 1984, and summers as an NEH scholar in Munich in 1995 and at Duke in 2013.  He also spent 2009-10 studying Catholic theology and philosophy at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
Murray was the author of two books and co-editor of a third.  The most recent, The Charleston Orphan House: Children’s Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2013, was the recipient of the George C. Rogers, Jr. Prize, awarded by the South Carolina Historical Society for the best book on South Carolina history.  His first book, Origins of American Health Insurance: A History of Industrial Sickness Funds (Yale University Press, 2007) was named one of ten “Noteworthy Books in Industrial Relations and Labor Economics” in 2008 by the Industrial Relations Section, Princeton University.
He published book chapters, monographs, encyclopedia and handbook contributions, and numerous articles in refereed journals including the Journal of Economic HistoryExplorations in Economic History, and Demography.  His clear, crisp writing style and ability to explain complicated economic concepts made him a frequent choice to write for the popular press as well.
His research interests were varied.  His most recent work centered on coal mine safety, post bellum African-American labor supply, and families in 19th century Charleston.  He published extensively in the areas of the history of healthcare and health insurance, religion, and family related issues from education to orphanages, fertility, and marriage, not to mention his work in anthropometrics, labor markets, and literacy.
He was a scholar and a teacher, who believed deeply in the value of a liberal arts education, arguing that “a rigorous education, based on the traditional great books, teaches students great things—compassion for others in the human condition, the value of striving for greatness, the need for self-awareness, and humility in those efforts.”  He won awards for his teaching at Ohio State and Toledo.
He was the director of the Program in Political Economy, a rigorous interdisciplinary major at Rhodes College.  He taught a variety of economic history courses, including courses on demography and economic development, as well as mathematical economics, freshman calculus, introductory statistics, and econometrics. Then on the weekend he donated his time to his local parish, teaching Sunday School.
He was also generous with his time on a professional level, frequently reviewing books, and serving as the Book Review editor for the Journal of Economic History from 2014-16.  He was a member of the editorial board of four journals: Explorations in Economic History (2008-15), the History of Education Quarterly(2016-19), Social Science History (1996-98 and 2006-14), and theJournal of Economic History since 2015.  He served as the Associate Editor of Social Science History from 2001 to 2006.
He was a trustee for the Cliometric Society and served on its Program Committees, and was active in the Social Science History Association, holding numerous positions.  He also served on numerous university committees at both Rhodes College and the University of Toledo.
More than a respected academic and award-winning author, John was a devoted husband and proud father.  As impressive as his professional accomplishments were, his career always came second to his family.  Conversations with John would eventually lead to family, and hearing him talk about them left no doubt about his true passion.

John is survived by his wife Lynn and their twin daughters.