Economic history

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The economic history is a bridge discipline between the economics and the science of history . Depending on the point of view, economics and business administration as well as the history of economic history can serve as auxiliary sciences. Or economic history becomes an auxiliary science of the first-mentioned subjects, for example to investigate the cross-epoch validity of theories. Economic history examines the development, organization and logic of action of or in economies , sectors , companies , actors and groups of actors from a historical perspective.

In the last few decades the methodological and conceptual orientation of economic history in German-speaking countries has changed several times. From the end of the 1950s, it was initially further developed - starting from Anglo-Saxon countries - through cliometry in the direction of quantitative questions, macroeconomic perspectives and statistical-mathematical methods. Since the 1990s, the connection to the New Institutional Economics , whose impulses came from the economic sciences, related institutional theories and cultural studies models of the historical sciences were sought. More and more qualitative questions and methods as well as microeconomic perspectives became the focus of current research perspectives. At the same time, there is also a trend towards international, cross-country and cross-cultural topics and issues. While traditionally the question of the causes and factors of the transition to the modern growth economy ( industrial revolution ) was discussed, economic history is now interested in a broad and diverse field of topics.

At universities , chairs for economic history are usually located either in history or economics faculties. The subject is often coupled with related disciplines such as social or agricultural history . In German university policy, economic history is classified as a small subject together with social history .

Sources of economic history

The source of economic history can be any type of tradition that reveals information about economic circumstances and what has happened in the past.

Methods of economic history

As a bridging discipline, economic history is located between the methodological approaches of history and economics.

On the one hand there is the more qualitative, inductive historical method (for example hermeneutics ), on the other hand there are the more quantitative, deductive , mathematically and analytically oriented theories and methods of economics. To a certain extent, this reflects the dispute over methods of economics , which was fought out between the historical school of economics and the neoclassical Austrian school of economics, especially in German-speaking countries at the turn of the 20th century . In Great Britain and the USA , the neoclassical New Economic History dominates research on economic history, while in other, above all European countries, a wide variety of approaches that are often strongly interlinked with social history ( e.g. the Annales School ) are important.

The methods used by different researchers therefore differ according to their approach and the question they pose. A pluralism of methods adapted to the question can often be found.

Sub-disciplines and research directions

Sub-disciplines and fields of research in economic history are often closely related to or overlap with other disciplines. Some important fields are:

Adjacent subjects

Economic history and genealogy

Changes in the frequency of occupations and branches of activity , as can be proven from all genealogical works, are the most important meeting point between the disciplines of economic history and genealogy for the pre-statistical period before 1850.

Further overlaps take place in the area of ​​the company 's history, which is interested in the personality and family of the founder or the company or his financial circumstances and sources of money, which often stem from family relationships with merchant families (see also founding family , marriage group , social mobility ).

A deeper understanding of craft traditions is also unthinkable without genealogy.

Traffic history and postal history

Communication has always been a basic requirement for the functioning of economic processes, which is why postal history - for a long time the postal service was almost the sole mediator of news - is indispensable. Instead of being understood as institutional history, as it used to be, postal history can contribute to an understanding of commercial decisions. Especially since in the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the complex shipping conditions, merchants had to spend a lot of time and money to deliver their messages safely and quickly. The same applies to the history of traffic and modern communication.

Economic history by country and epoch

Eminent economic historians



Major magazines


In Germany:


Methodical introductions

Thematic introductions

Regional treatises, especially Germany

Web links

Commons : Economic History  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Wikisource: Economic History  - Sources and Full Texts


  1. Mark Spoerer, Jochen Streb: New German Economic History of the 20th Century . Munich 2013, pp. 1–23.
  2. Cf. Clemens Wischermann et al .: Study book institutional economic and corporate history . Stuttgart 2015.
  3. For example at the universities of Münster, Regensburg and Hohenheim.
  4. see specialist locations for economic and social history of the small subjects office (Mainz) , accessed on December 6, 2015