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July 27, 2017


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Jeff Lipshaw

Thank you, Al, for posting this. I was not aware. His first claim to fame as a very young historian was challenging, as a non-economist, the economic theory underlying the controversial Fogel & Engerman book, Time on the Cross, in the mid 1970s (when I was a serious undergraduate history major). F & E had argued that slave labor was more productive based on something called the "index of total factor productivity." He wrote a review in the New York Review of Books demonstrating that a Nobel Prize winning economist-to-be had gotten it wrong. He wrote, "By the time I had gotten halfway through it I suspected the authors had committed a blunder. Untrained in economics and having my Ph.D. in history only a year earlier, I knew it would seem absurdly presumptuous of me to accuse two of the nation's most distinguished economic historians of misusing a tool of their trade." His review began: "I am not an econometric historian or specialist in the history of slavery, but I am a reasonable man and, as such, entitled to judge the plausibility of the author's argument."

He has as much to say about scholarly method as the substance of scholarship. (I came upon him because he, like one of my mentors, was interested in the historiography, how history gets written. I return over and over again to his "Objectivity is Not Neutrality" for his thoughts on the difference between attributive cause and nomological-deductive cause - answering the question "why did you hit him?" as "he got me mad" rather than "my brain sent signals through various synapses to the muscles in my arm." Also his history of the development of the professional social science disciplines (an account of the American Social Science Association's rise and decline) is relevant today to anybody who thinks about interdisciplinarity.

Enrique Guerra Pujol

Jeff, your comment made me look up and read Haskell's review of "time on the cross". Here it is for the benefit of all faculty loungers who might be interested in this fascinating review:

Enrique Guerra-Pujol

I tried sending this before--here is a link to Haskell's review of Fogel & Engerman, TOTC:

Enrique Guerra-Pujol

Woe is me. I give up. I will stop trying to post Haskell's review of TOTC.

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