India may have made progress economically, but it has clearly declined in economic research and thinking. We hardly have original economic ideas with most thinking coming from elsewhere. There was a time when there was original economic research published in Indian economic journals and by Indian university economists. Now all these three are missing. Few people who continue to be passionate about so called Indian economic thought are hardly given their due.
The contributions of present-day home-grown Indian economists are not adequately appreciated by the establishment today. It is important to stress that India has a long tradition of work on Indian economics. I believe there were not many countries at India’s level of development in the period before independence that had such a thriving community of economists. They made original and pioneering contributions to environmental economics, macroeconomics, planning and employment analysis and many other fields.
Unfortunately, these contributions remain either unknown or are forgotten. Not many know, for instance, that the Indian Journal of Economics (IJE), founded in 1916, recently completed a hundred years of its existence. For a technical journal to continue to exist after a hundred years is a truly spectacular event.
The IJE was founded in Allahabad University by the first professor of economics at that university, Herbert Stanley Jevons, son of the famous economist, William Stanley Jevons. Herbert, the son, was the editor from 1916 to 1922, before he moved to the University of Rangoon.
The journal underwent several vicissitudes over the 1920s and 1930s, but established itself as the premier journal of economics in India. However, by the 1950s, it had lost this status, as several rivals entered the scene, including the Indian Economic Journal, the Indian Economic Review and the Economic Weekly. Apart from this, some journals devoted to business and commerce also emerged.
An important reason for the pre-eminence of the IJE was that from the early 1920s to around 1950, it was not only the journal of the University of Allahabad, but also the journal of the Indian Economic Association which had been formed in 1917. In its early years, the IJE was the forum where many of the important works of Indian economists appeared. Several of these were remarkably original for their time and some led to strong critiques and rebuttals in the pages of the IJE.
The IJE published a wide variety of articles. Some were distinctly original, while others were not. While there were several expatriate contributors to the early issues, over time more and more of the articles were by Indian economists, working in the Indian universities and colleges and in government. A number of the papers that appeared in the IJE had been read at the annual conferences of the Indian Economic Association where there had been lively debates on them.
There is an urgent need to not just digitise these lost journals but lost Indian economic thought…