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Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter’s Contribution to Economics and History

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I decided to take a short break from writing about New Orleans to highlight one really interesting title in our reference collection – English Overseas Trade Statistics by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter.   This title is a favorite of mine because of all of the tables and its historical coverage and like an earlier favorite I wrote about, a Guide to Business History: Materials for the Study of American Business History and Suggestions for their Use, it was written by a woman. Both women also dedicated long periods of time to their respective projects. According to the biographical preface of Schumpeter’s book her work on it occupied the last years of her life, although it was not published until after she died.

Detail from English Overseas Trade Statistics by Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter, p 62.

English Overseas Trade Statistics isn’t particularly thick, but it is oversize because of how the 47 tables were organized and presented.  This post features part of Table XVIII  “Quantities of Imports, Re-exports, and Retained Imports of Selected Commodities, 1700-1808”.  Many of the tables are just an alphabetical listing of commodity by year, but tables beginning with XIX include exports of commodities by Geographical Divisions that include Africa & East Indies, Northern Europe, Central Europe, Southern Europe, British Europe, United States, British Cont. Colonies, British West Indies, and Misc.

There is a separate introduction by T.S. Ashton which includes background on the book as well as information that might help users understand the nature of the title. Ashton writes that the genesis of the work dated back to Schumpeter’s 1934 thesis “Trade Statistics and Cycles in England, 1697-1825” where she pulled from material at the Public Record Office in London. According to Ashton, Schumpeter was unsatisfied with the limited nature of the data in her thesis and she wanted to go beyond the 5- year intervals she had used.  This book is a result of her return to the project. Ashton writes that the two principal sources were the Ledgers of Imports and Exports of England and Wales for 1697-1780 and the Reports on the State of the Navigation, Commerce, and Revenues of Great Britain for the years 1772 onward – both of which came from the office of the Inspector-General of Imports and Exports.  As Austin indicates this was quite an endeavor:

“The magnitude of the task she undertook is attested by some 15,000 separate sheets of transcripts from the Ledgers, and a mass of other papers covered with calculations and notes.” (p1)

Comments (2)

  1. How influential do you think Elizabeth was to her husband’s work?

    • While I am not a historian or someone who has done an in-depth study about the more professional end of her relationship with her husband, given that they had similar professional interests, and that she played an integral part in what became History of Economic Analysis that was published after his death, I think I would safe in saying that there marriage was a partnership.

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