chapter  4
16 Pages

J. H. Clapham THE STUDY OF ECONOMIC HISTORY (Cambridge, 1929)

This chair of economic history which Cambridge has set up, and to which she has done me the honour of calling me, is-by an odd accident-at this moment the only chair of economic history in the Kingdom. There have been two others-the first, very appropriately, at Manchester, left vacant of late by the premature death of the keenest economic historian and one of the most single-minded scholars of my generation, George Unwin; and the second in London, also vacated by untimely death, the death of a Cambridge historian, Lilian Knowles, who spent her working life in building up the historical side of the London School of Economics. For the time being, but for reasons not connected with the academic valuation of economic history, these Universities-like Oxford and many others-are carrying on with readerships. There are happily besides the readers scholars of professorial quality, though I fear seldom with professorial leisure, working at the subject unlabelled or otherwise labelled-historians with economic interests, economists with historical leanings, professors of commerce, readers in currency. Lecturers in economic history are numerous; for every year, from the elementary schools up to the universities, there is a call for teachers-teachers of economic history pure; of social history which requires an economic substratum; of local history which requires one also; and of the widening study of 'human geography,' as the French say, which can no more dispense with economic history than economic history can dispense with it. If university chairs are, in wilfully mixed metaphor, the crown and fountain-head of what they call in Germany a Disciplin-an organized body of studiesit will, I think, be agreed that this Discipline of Economic History is lightly crowned and in some present danger of being but lightly refreshed. For the future I have no fear. The thing is growing and will grow. There are whole tracts still to be occupied. Three specialist journals in English have been started in the last three years, and new syntheses should be coming soon. My single regret, when I think of its relatively late recognition in this University, is that the man who nursed it here, and who was known in all Universities as one of the two outstanding English economic historians of his time, William Cunningham, never received from Cambridge the professorial rank

which he deserved. Nor, for that matter, did his rather younger colleague, Sir William Ashley, from Oxford.