I get asked this all the time by students and staff in the history department when I tell them I’m studying macroeconomics this semester. They ask ‘why?’ with a very puzzled look on their face which just makes me laugh now that it has happened so many times. Macroeconomics is not a subject most history students would choose to study, however, the polarising figure of Niall Ferguson inspired me long ago to take a real interest in economic history. A few years ago he was preaching the importance of studying economic history, especially those in big business and those in the finance industry, saying that if many more people had studied it the GFC may never have happened or at least it might have only been a minor global recession instead the Great Recession it turned out to be. I agree with him on this topic, although it is easy to speculate with hindsight.
So here I am – a student wanting to study some economic history but does it exist in any university in the Sydney region? No, apparently not. I’ve been told by my economics lecturer that it used to exist at my uni but when the cutbacks started they got rid of it as not enough students were taking it. We’ve had the GFC since then I’m sure there’d be more interest now and all they have to do is make it compulsory for economic students and voila, plenty of students for the subject. I think I should be running the university sometimes 😉 So I’ve taken up Macroeconomics to get the basics and then I hope to apply what I’m learning to my history research.
Although I have to admit sometimes when the graphs and equations are doing my head in I find myself asking ‘Why oh why am I doing this?’
For those of you interested in a general but very interesting look at economic history I suggest Niall Ferguson’s bestseller “The Ascent of Money” and if you can’t bring yourself to read a book then at least watch the DVDs that summarise it further. I have watched it so many times as, unlike American documentaries that insult your intelligence, it is packed full of interesting info that I have to re-watch a few times it to comprehend all of it. A brilliant book on economic history that was published in 2009 is “This Time is Different, Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. And for those who want the nitty-gritty of economic basics my current textbook is “Principles of Macroeconomics” 2nd ed, by Ben Bernanke (yes, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve in the US ), Nilss Olekalns and Robert Frank.