Cycles and crises

(enlarge image)

Over the years I have written on various authors and themes concerning the history of crises and business cycle theories. I list them here in chronological order, for complete references see the list of publications.


"The periodicity of crises. A survey of the literature before 1850". On the early accounts of the periodical recurrence of comemrcial crises, 1797-1850. Paper forthcoming in JHET, 2009.

Disease of the body politick. A metaphor for crises in the history of nineteenth century economics”. Speculation fevers, contagion, intermittent fevers and other metaphors used in the early 19th century to describe crises (forthcoming in JHET)

On the historiography of business cycle theories: "Tendency to equilibrium, the possibility of crisis, and the history of business cycle theories" (HEI, 2006).


William Huskisson. Probably the first complete exposition of the ‘overtrading’ theory of crises in 1810 ("Paper money and national distress. William Huskisson and the early theories of credit, speculation and crises”, EJHET, 2010)

John Wade. Author of two nice cob-web like models of the commercial cycle in 1826 and 1833 (“John Wade's early endogenous dynamic model: 'Commercial cycle' and theories of crises”, EJHET, 2008)

James Anthony Lawson. He was one of the first propounders, in 1848, of the view that crises should not be seen as disconnected events, but have a common cause, and are therefore instances of the same phenomenon. ("James Anthony Lawson on commercial panics and their recurrence”, in SCED, 2008).

Charles Coquelin. As well as Lawson, an early propounder of the epistemic argument that crises have a common cause (1852). (article to appear in the volume on crises in dictionaries)

Auguste Ott. Author in the early 1850s of an unorthodox theory of crises based on the disappointment of expectations, analysed by means of some reproduction schemes anticipating, to some extent, the Marxian contribution (paper forthcoming in RPE, 2009 or 2010; written with Giorgio Colacchio; chapter to appear in the volume on crises in dictionaries)

Gerolamo Boccardo. In the economic dictionary he edited in 1857, he first categorized different kinds of crises end examined their relationships, and introduced the distinction between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ causes. (Chapter to appear in the volume on crises in dictionaries)

Clément Juglar, although widely seen as the founder of business cycles theory, did not contribute much of theoretical importance, but was nonetheless the author of the first full blown treatise on the recurrence of commercial crises in 1862 ("‘Periodic crises’: Clément Juglar between theories of crises and theories of business cycles”, in RHET&M, 2010; "Clément Juglar and his contemporaries on the causes of commercial crises”, in REES 2009; and “The fabrication of a mythy: Clément Juglar’s commercial crises in the secondary literature”, forthcoming in HEI)

William Stanley Jevons’s theory that periodical crises are driven by sunspots is nowadays often ridiculed as an example of nonsense exogenous expanation of fluctuations. At the time of writing, however, the relationship of sunspots, weather and agriculture was thoroughly explored by numerous writers ("'Hath rain a father?' Sunspots and the periodicity of panics: Jevons, his critics, and an omen from the press”, SPE 2008)

Mihail Ivanovich Tugan-Baranowsky is arguably the author of the first business cycle theory in the modern sense. It consists in a loanable funds theory of investment founded upon a discussion of the general possibility of crises ("'Marxism gone mad': Tugan-Baranovsky on crises, their possibility and periodicity", RPE 2006)

Mentor Bouniatian was, in 1908, an early propounder of a theory of the cycle based on time-lags and on the acceleration principle, which also incorporates the notion of moving equilibrium ("Mentor Bouniatian on Cycles and Equilibrium”, SCED 2007)

Roy Harrod contributed in 1936 the first clear exposition of a multiplier-accelerator mechanism, nonlinear in its nature although not so discussed mathematically (for my writings on Harrod see here).

Dennis Robertson: among the pioneers of business cycles theory (1915), in the 1930s actively corresponded with Roy Harrod on cycles, dynamics, policy and much else ("Dynamics, trade and money in the correspondence between Roy Harrod and Dennis Robertson". Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, 2004).

Michal Kalecki: thorn between a Marxist view and a mechanistic outlook, he produced one of the first mathematical models of the cycle, where he tried to insert some features incompatible with his linear equations ("Formal modelling vs. insight in Kalecki's theory of the business cycle", in Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, 2006” “Alcune proprietà e applicazioni economiche delle equazioni differenziali con deviazioni nell'argomento", Ricerche Economiche [now Research in Economics ]1984; "Michal Kalecki: la dinamica economica tra materialismo e meccanicismo", Economia Politica 1988)

Richard Goodwin was the pioneer of nonlinear dynamics. His 1951 article presents his model arguing at the same time that the nonlinear approach necessarily had to supersede the then dominant (and much easier) formulations in linear terms; his rhetoric was as important as his model (La costruzione dei modelli economici tra storia e cultura", Economia Politica 1991)