The multicolored graph below shows the subjects in which economists working in Cambridge studied. Blue stands for subjects in the humanities. Red stands for mathematics, yellow for economics itself. Intermediate colors represent multiple courses of study reflecting combinations of subjects.
Literature or Classics
Humanities and Economics
Mathematics and Economics
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HOW TO READ THIS GRAPH
On first glance, it is readily apparent that economists working in Cambridge received training in a diverse array of fields. Most, it seems, had an orientation towards the humanities. Yet it is also important to note that two of the most central figures, Alfred Marshall and John Maynard Keynes, both came from a mathematical background. There is another point which can most easily be understood by comparing the downloadable .pdfs found in the pane to the right. This is that economics, as a self-perpetuating discipline, really emerged during the first half of the 20th century. Compare the .pdf marked "Before 1925" which shows all the people appointed to positions at Cambridge (including Tripos examiners and Marshall Lecturers) before 1925 with the one marked "After 1925." The difference is obvious. The latter graph has nearly all of the yellow nodes, the ones representing people who had training in economics as such.
HOW WE USE DATA
This graph is exactly the same as the first one featured on this site, "People and Institutions," save for two departures. The first is obvious: the nodes are colored differently, according to educational training. The second is that all the institutions are represented by very small nodes so as to emphasize the people themselves. However, by hovering over the small institutional nodes, visitors are still able to highlight their connections.
THE HISTORY BEHIND THE MAP
Many of the most famous Cambridge economists started out studying other subjects. Keynes wrote his fellowship essay on statistics. A.C. Pigou's first fellowship essay, which was unsuccessful, was on the poet Robert Browning. Piero Sraffa studied law in his native Italy. Most early political economists studied literature, history, the classics, and when at Oxford the "Greats" or Literae Humaniores. Yet as economics became increasingly formalized both as a discipline and as a course of study (in large part thanks to the mathematically trained Alfred Marshall), a new generation emerged as a rigorously trained academic cadre. By the 1930s, advanced statistical and mathematical methods had become par for the course in the field, leaving many members of the older generation feeling out of touch and unable to participate in contemporary discussion.