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Economic History and Other Cognate Disciplines

” A good economist “must be a mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher
to some degree. He [sic] must understand symbols and speak in words. He must
contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete
in the same flight of thought. . . . He must be purposeful and disinterested in a
simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near
the earth as a politician.” John Maynard Keynes, “(Obituary Essay in Memory of Alfred P. Marshall)”

Economic History, the study of the economic past, is a discipline that cannot function in isolation. In an effort to examine the economic past of man, economic historians liaise with other sister disciplines, using fundamental variables in humanity, physical, and social sciences disciplines like sociology, history, anthropology, archaeology, and others. The importance of Economic History traverses the borders of economics and history.

As posited by Homa Katouzian

Throughout the century or so in which classical political economy or
economics developed – roughly from 1770 to the 1870 – history was in
evidence, either explicitly or tacitly as the background to contemporary
economic analysis (1)

“There is always the need to collaborate with scholars from other disciplines for proper analysis of issues (Ogunode)”. It is rare to see a discipline that has no relation with economics or history. This increases the association of economic history with other disciplines. The relationship between economic history and few sister disciplines will be examined consequently.

Economic History and Geography (sub-discipline, Economic Geography)

  Geography, the study of physical properties of the earth, including how humans affect and are affected by them (Wiktionary), has a great influence on the reconstruction of the past of man generally. Therefore, geographical, and climatic factors determine the economic activities of the early men. Economic geography, a sub-discipline of Economic History and Geography, concerns itself with the process of distribution of goods and services in a particular place over a particular period of time.

 Economic History cannot be studied without a focus on the geographical environment.  According to Peter Temin, both subfields (of Economic History and Economic Development)study economic development; the difference is that economic history focuses on high-wage countries while economic development focuses on low-wage economies (2)

Economic History and Economics

“Economic history deals with economic questions and as such, it deals with theories and generalizations. This development inevitably makes it a social science. Economic History also deals with numbers. Though there are a few economic heroes, the primary emphasis is on the masses. It has been suggested that economic history concerns itself with the material basis of existence. It examines such concepts as income, wages, employment, the distribution of wealth, the allocation of scarce resources, and how these have been managed in the past. It is interesting to note that Economic History used to study or was formerly based in the Department of Economics, most especially in the Western world.”


“The old Economic History or political economy was almost synonymous with the discipline of Economics especially when it was first enunciated by Adams Smith. Indeed, joseph Schumpeter believed that the study of Economics is essentially a unique process in historic time and that no economic phenomenon can be reasonably understood without a proper appreciation of historical facts, a sense of history, and an appreciable measure of historical experience.”

“This goes a long way to underscore the close affinity between the discipline of Economics and Economic History. Again, an Economic Historian named Douglas North won the Nobel Prize for Economics. It must be added that the close affinity between Economic History and other social sciences has resulted in the acquisition of social science methodology for historical research. Of particular importance are the mathematical or statistical techniques, the employment of various analytical models, and the attempt to generalize within a particular spatial and temporal dimension.”

Economic Anthropology is a sub-discipline of Economic History and Anthropology that concerns itself “with the study of the society in relation to its evolutionary dynamics and the web of factors that enhanced its growth, development or its rise and fall as the case may be.” (Ogunode). And “totems have a way of revealing economic relation in the past.”

Economic History and Statistics are intertwined disciplines that cannot be separated if both of them should function well. Economic Statistics is a sub-discipline of the duo disciplines that helps economic historians to have perfect records of past economic activities in a scientific overview. Statistics also aids not only economic historians in the organization and presentation of data but also helps policymakers to fashion out good economic policies to solve practical economic problems.

Economic History and Archaeology (Sub-discipline: Economic Archaeology). Archaeology is the study of the past by excavation and analysis of its material remains (Wiktionary).  Therefore economic historians use the excavated materials to relate the economic past of man. The relics left behind by early men shed more light on their economic history. For an instance, the excavations of the Acheulian, and Sangoan type tools shed more light on the economic past of the Homo Erectus who lived in Nigeria around 50,000 B.C.

Citation: Faforiji Tadese. Economic History and Other Cognate Disciplines. (May 2021). Retrieved at


  1. Homa Katouzian.The significance of Economic History and the Fundamental Features of the Economic History of Iran. International Journal of Economics and Politics 1(2): 27-54, 2020.

2. Economic History and Economic Development: New Economic History in Retrospect and Prospect Peter Temin NBER Working Paper No. 20107 May 2014. JEL No. N01,N10,O11,O15.

3. Ogunode S.A, Ph, D. A lecturer of Economic History, Department of History and International Studies, Adkunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko.

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.