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Harvard. Books on reserve in economics tutorial department, ca. 1927


In one of the folders containing economics course reading lists in the Harvard University Archives, I found a single sheet of paper with a typed list of books in the Harvard College economics tutorial office (a hand-written note above the list: “1926-27 or 1927-28”). Beginning with the Class of 1917, a general examination of candidates for the A.B. degree with a concentration in the Division of History, Government, and Economics was required. Following the English model, special tutors were appointed to supervise and provide supplementary non-course instruction in preparation for the general examination. This posting begins with some background material regarding both the general final examination and the tutorial system. Division exams for 1939 have already been transcribed and posted in Economics in the Rear-view Mirror–see the Economics General Exam for 1939 where links to the five specific (i.e. field) exams and six so-called correlation exams for honors candidates are provided. 

Today’s posting ends with the list of 45 economics titles (multiple copies, from 2-12) available in the economics tutorial office in the late 1920s.


Introduction of the general final examination and tutorial system

…Beginning with the Class of 1917, students concentrating in the Division of History, Government, and Economics will be given a general final examination upon the field of their concentration. This examination will be so arranged as to test the general attainments of each candidate in the field covered by this Division and also in a specific field of study pursued by the student within the Division. The specific field will be selected by the student himself upon the basis of his courses and his reading. The following list gives examples of such fields of study, but is in no sense exhaustive, and any other field of work within the Division may be presented by the candidate for approval:

Ancient History
American History and Government
Modern European History
Municipal and State Government
International Law and Diplomacy
Economic Theory
Economic History
Applied Economics

The general final examination has been established, not in order to place an additional burden upon candidates for the A.B., but for the purpose of securing better correlation of the student’s work, encouraging better methods of study, and furnishing a more adequate test of real power and attainment. To this end students concentrating in the Division will from the beginning of their Sophomore year have the guidance and assistance of special Tutors. The work of these Tutors will be to guide students in their respective fields of study, to assist them in coördinating the knowledge derived from different courses, and to stimulate in them the reading habit. Students will meet the Tutors in small groups and for individual conferences at intervals depending upon the nature of the student’s work, the rate of his progress, and the number of courses which he may be taking in this Division in any particular year. The work of Tutors will be entirely independent of the conduct of courses, and the Tutors as such will have no control over the work or the grades of any student in any college course. Their guidance and assistance will naturally be of indirect benefit to the student in his work in individual courses, but their main function will be to help the student and guide him in the kind of reading and study which will be most useful toward his general progress in this Division. The attitude of the Tutor will be that of a friend rather than of a task-master, and students may consult him freely and informally concerning any phase of their work.


Source: Division of History, Government, and Economics, 1914-15. Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XI, No. 1, Part 14 (May 19, 1914), pp. 79-80.


From The Harvard Crimson

Tutorial System Hereafter
Rules for Concentration in History, Government and Economics Will Apply Next Year.
April 10, 1914

Beginning with the class of 1917 and applying to all subsequent classes, a new rule in regard to concentration in the Division of History, Government and Economics has been adopted.Concentration in this Division requires at least six courses which are related to each other. Under the new system all students concentrating in this division will be required to pass in their Senior year a final examination covering their special field within the Division, and consisting of a written examination early in the spring, and an oral examination toward the close of the year. In order to prepare students for these examinations the University will provide special tutors beginning with the Sophomore year.

Only Two Introductory Courses.

Every student intending to concentrate in History, Government, and Economics should state the Department in which he will take at least four courses and the Department in which he will take the remaining two. He will not be allowed to count towards his concentration more than two of the introductory courses, History 1, Government 1, and Economics A. The aim of the system is to enforce a more accurate knowledge and comprehension of studies as a whole. This aim has frequently not been achieved owing to the wide scattering of courses.


The Tutorial System
April 10, 1914

There are two new features in the recently announced requirements of the Division of History, Government and Economics, namely, the general examination and the tutorial system. And they are complementary. The task of the tutor is to intelligently guide the student in his preparation for the final examination, to assist him in that organization and correllation of his work which is the key-note of the plan. His work begins where the adviser’s work ends. The adviser still superintends the choice of courses made by the student although it is to be expected, probably, that a capable tutor will tend to influence this choice. It will be impossible so sharply to distinguish the task of choosing courses and correlating them as to prevent this. The sanction of the adviser may approximate formal permission, with the guiding force held by the tutor.

The general examination on the other hand, modelled after the plan in use for doctorate examinations, including a general examination for the division work and a supplementary special test for the department or field, reaches over the whole matter of choice and organization and focuses the work of the adviser, tutor and student.

One result is inevitable, that is, the effect of producing a more serious scientific attitude toward the work. The student who chooses this Division will be presumed to have made the choice with serious intent to perfect himself in that line. The student who chose that work because he had to concentrate in something may well feel he is getting more than he bargained for. This is not a criticism; the result-to make study in that division more in the way of laboratory work, to lift it out of the region of inconsequent eclectic undergraduate education may be more serious. The decline or increase in the number of men in the Division will show to what an extent the work there is taken for serious reasons, not as a line of least resistance.

The effect in minimizing course grades, cramming, and mechanical study can only be helpful. To produce capable and broad-minded students, with a wide grasp of their field and an accurate knowledge of their specialty is the very desirable end to which the system aims. And that not by more work but by better organization.

Excerpt from
Will Exchange Two Tutors [with Oxford and Cambridge] Next Year
March 19, 1923

…the work of the tutor is independent of courses, not subordinate to them; for tutorial instruction is quite separate from course instruction.

Started Here in 1912

The tutorial system was inaugurated Harvard in 1912. At that time a general examination for graduation was established experimentally for men concentrating in History, Government and Economics. It was felt that these examinations could be made effective and, at the same time, fair to the student only by the development of a system of individual guidance, so six tutors were appointed. Since then the general examination, with or without tutors, has been put into effect as a requirement for men concentrating in a number of other subjects, all in fact, except Mathematics and the natural sciences,–and the number of tutors having been accordingly increased from six to over 30.

Of the conditions here, Professor H. H. Burbank, G. ’15 says in his recent annual report as chairman of the board of tutors in History, Government and Economics. “Attendance at the conferences is not compulsory. There is no system of monitoring or reports of absences to the college office. The fear of disciplinary action cannot serve as a stimulus to meet appointments or to prepare assignments. It is true that the authority to employ disciplinary measures can be invoked if the occasion arises, but in eight years no resort to such measures has been necessary. Yet the cutting of tutorial appointments is comparatively rare, far less than the cutting of courses. The majority of concentrators, well over 60 per cent, seldom fail to meet their engagements. The tradition of tutorial work has become firmly established”….


[1926-27 or 1927-28]

6 Dunbar Theory and History of Banking Putnam, New York
6 Cannan Money King, London
12 Bagehot Lombard St. Murray, London
12 Robertson Money Harcourt Brace Co., N.Y.
5 Cassell Money and Foreign Exchange MacMillan, N.Y.
6 Carver Essays in Social Justice Harvard University Press
6 White Money and Banking Ginn and Co., Boston
6 Hawtrey Monetary Reconstruction Longmans Green & Co., N.Y.
6 Hawtrey Currency and Credit Longmans Green & Co., N.Y.
3 Hawtrey Economic Problem Longmans Green & Co., N.Y.
6 George Progress and Poverty Garden City Pub. Co., N.Y.
3 Andreades History of Bank of England King, London
5 Withers Meaning of Money E.P. Dutton Co., N.Y.
3 Toynbee Industrial Revolution Longmans Green & Co., N.Y.
4 Morley Life of Cobden, Vol. I; Vol. II. MacMillan, N.Y.
4 Trevelyan John Bright Houghton Mifflin Co., N.Y.
5 Fisher Purchasing Power of Money MacMillan, N.Y.
2 Chamberlain Bond Investment Henry Holt & Co., N.Y.
3 Lough Corporation Finance Alex. Hamilton Institute, N.Y.
2 Henderson Federal Trade Commission Yale University Press, New Haven
12 Smith Wealth of Nations (Everyman’s Lib.)  Vol. I; Vol. II. E.P. Dutton Co., N.Y.
6 Ricardo Political Economy (Everyman’s Lib.) E.P. Dutton Co., N.Y.
3 Ricardo First Six Chapters of Political Economy MacMillan, N.Y.
12 Ricardo Political Economy (Gonner Editor) George Bell, London
3 Malthus Essay on Population MacMillan, N.Y.
6 Mill Political Economy (Ashley Edition) Longmans Green & Co., N.Y.
2 Mill Political Economy (2 vols) Vol. I; Vol. II. Appleton & Co., N.Y.
6 Marshall Principles of Economics MacMillan, N.Y.
6 Marshall Industry and Trade MacMillan, N.Y.
3 Hobson Work and Wealth MacMillan, N.Y.
3 Pigou Economics of Welfare MacMillan, N.Y.
12 Henderson Supply and Demand Harcourt Brace Co., N.Y.
6 Cannan Wealth King, London
3 Davenport Economics of Enterprise MacMillan, N.Y.
6 Carver Distribution of Wealth MacMillan, N.Y.
6 Ely Outlines of Economics MacMillan, N.Y.
6 Clark Economics of Overhead Costs University of Chicago Press
6 Gide & Rist History of Economic Thought D.C. Heath & Co., Boston
3 Fairchild, Furniss & Buck Principles of Economics MacMillan, N.Y.
2 Flux Economic Principles E.P. Dutton Co., N.Y.
6 Veblen Theory of the Leisure Class Vanguard Press, N.Y.
3 Cassell The Theory of Social Economy Harcourt Brace Co., N.Y.
4 Böhm-Bawerk Positive Theory of Capital G.E. Stecher Co., N.Y.
3 National Indust. Conference Public Regulation of Competitive Practices
3 National Indust. Conference Trade Associations

Source: Harvard University Archives. Syllabi, course outlines and reading lists in Economics, 1895-2003 (HUC8522.2.1), Folder “1927-28”.

Image Source:  Harold Hitchings Burbank in Harvard Class Album 1925.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier