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Harvard Courses in Political Economy, 1874-75

Excerpts from the Harvard Catalogue for 1874-75 with principal texts and examination questions for political economy together with some information about the A.B. distinction between “prescribed” and “elective” studies.

Incidentally, one finds that annual fees for a full course load at Harvard ran $120/year and a copy of John Stuart Mill’s Principles cost $2.50. Cf. today’s price for N. Gregory Mankiw’s Economics which is $284.16. If tuition relative to the price of textbooks had remained unchanged (and the quality change of the Mankiw textbook relative to Mill’s textbook(!) were equal to the quality change of the Harvard undergraduate education today compared to that of 1874-75(!!)), Harvard tuition would only be about $13,600/year today instead of $45,278. Just saying.




The course of study to be pursued by a candidate for the Bachelor’s degree is made up in part of studies which are prescribed, and pursued by all students alike, and in part of studies selected by the student himself out of the various courses of instruction which are given in the College.


The prescribed studies occupy the whole of the Freshman year and about one-third of the Sophomore and Junior years. In the Senior year only certain written exercises are prescribed.

Anticipation of Prescribed Studies.

The prescribed studies of the Sophomore and Junior years being of an elementary character, students who wish to be relieved from attendance at College exercises in one or more of them will be excused from such attendance, if they pass a satisfactory examination in such study or studies at the beginning of the year in which they would regularly pursue the study or studies in College, or at the time of their examination for admission to College. Studies which are pursued only in the second half-year may also be anticipated in the same way in the middle of the year. No such examination will be deemed satisfactory unless the student shall succeed in obtaining at least one-half of the maximum mark. The mark obtained when the examination is successful will be credited to the student as his mark on the Annual Scale of the study which forms the subject of the examination. Preparation for these examinations can often be made while the student is preparing for College or in the long vacation, and time may be thus gained for higher courses of study. Students who intend to present themselves for such examination in any required study for 1875-76 must give notice to the Dean in writing before September 1, 1875.

Information concerning the requirements for passing the examination in any study can be obtained from the instructor in that study.


In addition to the prescribed studies, each Sophomore is required to pursue courses, chosen by himself from the elective studies, [ftnt: The prescribed Philosophy of the Junior year may be taken as an elective by Sophomores.] amounting to eight exercises a week for the year; each Junior, courses amounting to eleven exercises a week; and each Senior, courses amounting to twelve exercises a week. Students are at liberty to attend the instruction in as many other subjects as they may have time and taste for pursuing. In choosing his electives, the student must satisfy his instructors that he is qualified by his previous training to pursue those which he selects. With this limitation, all the courses given in the College are open to him in making his choice; but he is strongly recommended to make his choice with great care, under the best advice, and in such a manner that his elective courses from first to last may form a rationally connected whole.

Undergraduates who intend to study Engineering are recommended by the Scientific Faculty to take, as extras, the courses of Drawing and Surveying in the Scientific School; and those who intend to study Medicine are advised by the Medical Faculty to pay special attention to the study of Natural History, Chemistry, Physics, and the French and German languages, while in College.

It will be seen that students who prefer a course like the usual prescribed course of American colleges can perfectly secure it, under this system, by a corresponding choice of studies; while others, who have decided tastes, or think it wiser to concentrate their study on a few subjects, obtain every facility for doing so, and still secure in the briefer prescribed course an acquaintance with the elements of the leading branches of knowledge.


Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, pp. 46-47





Prescribed Political Economy.—Prof. [ Charles Franklin] Dunbar

Sophomore Year.

Fawcett’s Political Economy for Beginners.—Constitution of the United States (Alden’s Science of Government, omitting the first four and the last three chapters).

Two hours a week. Second half-year.


Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 54.



Senior Studies


Philosophy 7. — Prof. [ Charles Franklin] Dunbar.

Political Economy. — Fawcett’s Manual of Political Economy. — Blanqui’s Histoire de l’Économie Politique en Europe. — Bagehot’s Lombard Street.

Three hours a week. 19 Seniors, 14 Juniors.


Philosophy 8. — Prof. [ Charles Franklin] Dunbar.

Political Economy. — J. S. Mill’s Political Economy. — Bagehot’s Lombard Street. — Subjects in Currency and Taxation.

Three hours a week. 65 Seniors, 33 Juniors.


Courses 7 and 8 are parallel Courses, Course 7 being preferable for students of History.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 56.





Prescribed Political Economy.—Prof. [ Charles Franklin] Dunbar and Mr. Howland.

Elements of Political Economy.—Constitution of the United States.

Two hours a week. Second half-year. Sophomores and Juniors.*

*In 1873 the prescribed Study of Political Economy was transferred from the Junior to the Sophomore Year, and was pursued during the year 1873-74 by both classes.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 215.



Political Economy.

Those who are also to pass in the Constitution may omit questions marked *.

  1. Define (a)wealth; (b) value; (c)price; (d) capital; (e) money.
  2. What are the qualities which make gold and silver suitable materials for a currency? What are the objections to a double standard of value?
  3. Explain the action of demand and supply upon the prices (a) of raw materials; (b) of manufactured articles.
  4. Show how rents would be affected by suddenly doubling the productiveness of all lands under cultivation. Prove that rent does not enter into the price of agricultural produce.
  5. State and illustrate the causes which produce a difference in the rate of wages in different employments.
  6. Suppose the amount of the (gold) currency of a country to he suddenly doubled, what would be the effect upon (a) values; (b) prices; (c) exports and imports?
  7. Define direct and indirect taxation. What are the objections to an import duty on raw materials? What is the incidence of a tax levied on the rent of land and paid by the tenant?
  8. [*] Define productive and unproductive consumption. If the latter were to cease altogether, what would be the ultimate effect upon production?
  9. [*] Show how the cost of labor is affected, (a) if the efficiency of labor is increased; (b) if the margin of cultivation sinks.
  10. [*] What are the elements of which profits are composed? Why does the rate of profits vary (a) in different employments; (b) in different countries?
  11. [*] Explain the several ways in which credit promotes production. What are the disadvantages of an irredeemable paper currency?
  12. [*] Explain the use of bills of exchange. What is meant by an unfavorable balance of exchange?
  13. [*] Discuss the question, whether temporary and permanent incomes should be taxed alike.


Constitution of the United States.

Those who are also to pass in Political Economy may omit questions marked *.

  1. [*] When and by whom was the Constitution framed, and what were the principal steps leading to its formation and adoption?
  2. Define citizenship.
  3. What changes have the abolition of slavery and the consequent amendments of the Constitution made in the system of representation?
  4. State the method of electing the President, and the difference between the present method and that at first adopted.
  5. [*] By whom are questions settled which affect the validity of elections (a) of representatives, (b) of senators, (c) of President?
  6. [*] What provision does the Constitution make for the removal, death, resignation, or inability to serve of the President or Vice-President, or for a failure to elect either officer or both?
  7. [*] What powers over the militia are given to Congress or to the President?
  8. What are the provisions of the Constitution affecting the subject of currency
  9. What are the provisions relating to taxation, and what are direct taxes under the Constitution?
  10. [*] What are the provisions relating to impeachment?
  11. Under what provision did Congress claim and exercise the power of prohibiting slavery in the territories
  12. What is the extent of the judicial power of the United States, and where is it vested? What is the provision for amending the Constitution?

Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 218-9.




  1. Political Economy.—Prof. Dunbar.

J. S. Mill’s Political Economy.—Bagehot’s Lombard Street.—Sumner’s History of American Currency.

Three hours a week. 70 Seniors, 1 Junior.


Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 220.





The fees to be paid by Bachelors of Arts or Science who receive instruction as candidates for the Degree of Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, or Doctor of Science, or who attend lectures or recitations without being members of either professional school, are as follows : —

For not more than three hours of instruction a week $50.00 a year.
For more than three, but not more than six hours of instruction a week $90.00 a year.


For more than six hours of instruction a week $120.00 a year.
For a year’s instruction in any of the laboratories or in

the Museum of Comparative Zoology

The fees to be paid for examination are as follows :—
For the examination for the Degree of Master of Arts $30.00
For the examination for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy $60.00
For the examination for the Degree of Doctor of Science $60.00


There is no additional charge for the right to use the Library. The fees for instruction, but not those for examination, will be remitted to meritorious students who need such help.

Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 137.


[Advertisement of Macmillan & Company’s Books]

Logic. Professor Stanley Jevons’s Elementary Lessons in Logic, Deductive and Inductive. 18mo, cloth $1.25.

Political Economy for Beginners. By Millicent Garrett Fawcett. 18mo. $1.00.


Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 317.


[Advertisement of Lee and Shepard Books]

POLITICAL ECONOMY. Principles of Political Economy. By John Stuart Mill. New and revised edition. Lee and Shepard, Publishers. Boston. Complete in 1 vol. Crown 8vo.   $2.50

Source: Harvard University Catalogue, 1874-75, p. 336.


Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier