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Harry G. Johnson’s official biographer writes a new introduction on the eminent economist

Here, Don Moggridge provides a new article on the influential economist, Harry G. Johnson, ahead of the publication of the 9 volume Routledge Library Editions collection, Collected Works of Harry G. Johnson, this month. Moggridge offers a brief outline of the life of Johnson and his contributions to international trade and monetary economics.

Don Moggridge discusses the importantance of the new collection and its significance in helping to understand the economic influence that Johnson had on a significant proportion of the twentieth century.

'Harry Johnson (1923-1977), was educated at Toronto, Cambridge and Harvard. He taught full-time at St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, Nova Scotia (1943-4), Cambridge (1949-56), Manchester (1956-9), Chicago (1959-77) and LSE (1966-74).

His skills as an economist were recognized early and exploited in other ways. In June 1949 he was invited to join the advisory board of the Review of Economic Studies. He became Assistant Editor two years later, then Assistant Managing Editor, a post he held, despite the journal's long-standing convention of editors having to resign when promoted (which should have removed him when he took his chair in Manchester) until 1961. His editorial career would later include editorships of the Journal of Political Economy (1960-66, 1969-77), the Manchester School, Economica, as well as a watching brief on the Journal of International Economics. He was the best editor of his generation. With his encyclopedic knowledge of the literature and the profession, he could guide authors in fruitful directions and place their contributions in the context of contemporary developments of the discipline. Constant travel, conference-going and networking played a crucial role. He was onto trends before they appeared in print. He once remarked that if he relied solely on libraries or publications he would be at least two years behind where he actually was and thus be obsolete.

Johnson played a dominant role in two areas of economics. In the development of the Heckscher-Ohlin tradition, he made fundamental contributions to the theory of tariffs and to the formal theory of trade and economic growth. He also provided state of the art surveys. In monetary economics, both domestic and international, he was almost as seminal a figure. In a series of classic surveys of the literature, he identified and explained the links between the ideas of the major innovators in post-war monetary theory and, in his discussion of the issues that would benefit from further work, he set the agenda of the profession for a generation. He was the founding contributor to the monetary approach to the balance of payments.

This series of volumes contains all of Johnson's major contributions to both international trade and monetary economics and, in the two volumes edited with Jacob Frenkel, his attempt to launch, both theoretically and empirically, the monetary approach to the balance of payments. The series also provides examples of another of Johnson's strengths — his ability to extend economic analysis creatively to comprehend new phenomena such as opulence, economic nationalism, trade policy and the development of economics.

The volumes thus provide not only a good guide to the career of one outstanding economist, but also, given his command of the literature and its development, a guide to international economics and monetary economics as they developed in the third quarter of the twentieth century.'

For more information on this new collection from Routledge Library Editions, or to order your copy, visit:

Related Products

  1. Collected Works of Harry G. Johnson

    By Harry G. Johnson

    Series: Collected Works of Harry G. Johnson

    Supervised by Maurice Dobb, Harry Johnson was particularly impressed by the breadth and the ideas of Joseph Schumpeter, which greatly influenced his writings in later years. Johnson made many contributions to the development of Heckscher-Ohlin theory and also helped to found the monetary approach...

    Published March 15th 2013 by Routledge