Prof. Daniel Drezner points to top 10 books on international economic history. He was about to give a list of top books in International Political Economics but decided that students need to know a bit of eco history first. He says:
The thing is, most graduate programs in political economy don’t give you that much historical background before throwing the cutting-edge theory and methodology at you. This year I was lunching with some Ph.D. students at one of the top IPE schools in the country, and the students (and some of the professors) made it pretty clear that they didn’t know all that much about the topic beyond the tricks of the trade – formal modeling, econometric techniques, etc.
If you’re expecting me to go off on a rant here about the uselessness of these tools, well, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. There are some pretty good reasons to learn these techniques – among other things, they’ll help you to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to what blogs, pundits and public intellectuals are saying about the global economy.
That said, the opportunity cost can be significant – a failure to learn anything about global economic history beyond the stylized facts contained in the most-cited articles. This would be a weird collection of scattered knowledge, ranging from the 1860 Cobden-Chevalier Treaty to the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act to the birth of the Washington Consensus.
Soooo….. before you are ready to ready the ten books in IPE that you have to read, you should first read these ten books on global economic history.
Once you imbibe the (sometimes contradictory) information contained in these books, you can look at what the stylized facts contained in IPE books with a much more astringent perspective. It’s not a coincidence that the foundational IPE texts are by the twentieth century’s greatest economic historians – Eli Heckscher, Albert Hirschman, Charles Kindleberger, and Jacob Viner. Trust me – you will feel much the wiser for it.
The list is as per Prof Drezner so would differ from people to people. But knowing (and above all remembering) eco history is very very important.