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Harvard. Undergraduate International Trade. Enrollment, Readings, Exam. Harris, 1949


Seymour Harris was a Harvard man from his undergraduate years through his retirement from his alma mater. He served many terms as a government economic adviser and after Harvard moved on to be the chair of economics at the University of California, San Diego. This post provides a course description, enrollment data, reading list and examination questions for his winter semester course 1949-50 “International Trade”. An earlier post provides the outline the 1933 version of the course “International Trade and Tariff Policies”.

Seymour Edwin Harris was born September 8, 1897 in New York City. He received an A.B. in 1920 and a Ph.D. in 1926 from Harvard University. From 1922 to 1964, Dr. Harris taught economics at Harvard University, where he received a full professorship in 1954, and served as the chairman of the department of economics from 1955 to 1959. During World War II, Dr. Harris was involved in several wartime planning projects. From 1954 to 1956, Dr. Harris became chief economic advisor to Adlai Stevenson. He then served Senator John F. Kennedy in the same capacity and was chosen as a member of President Kennedy’s task force on the economy. In 1961, Dr. Harris was named as chief economic consultant to Douglas Dillon, Secretary of the Treasury. During the Kennedy administration. Dr. Harris, a proponent of Keynesian economics, was a member of Walter W. Heller’s New Frontiersmen, which persuaded President Kennedy that the stimulation of the economy was more important than a balanced budget and tax cuts and government spending could counter threats of a recession. In 1963, Dr. Harris became the chairman of the department of economics at the University of California at La Jolla. At the same time, he served as a chief economic advisor to the Johnson administration. [Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Finding Aid to the Papers of Seymour E. Harris]

Harris had quite a reputation for grinding out volumes of edited papers (written by others):  From a 1962 or 1963 student skit:  Professor Gerschenkron’s alleged advice for Matthew (the Evangelist): “I wanted Matthew to rewrite his paper for the Quarterly Journal and call it ‘Christ as a proto-Keynsian’ [sic] But no, he was a very strong-willed boy and he brought it out in a syposium [sic] edited by Seymour Harris, called the Bible, essays in honor of God.”


Course Description

Economics 143a (formerly Economics 43a). International Trade

Half-course (fall term). Mon., Wed., and (at the pleasure of the instructor) Fri., at 12. Professor Harris.

This course deals with the theory and practice of foreign trade and capital movements, including the importance of foreign trade, the manner of increasing its amount, its relation to the domestic economy, the problem of exchange rates, exchange control, international organizations in their relation to trade and capital movements. Political, economic, and administrative aspects are considered also.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Box 6, Courses of Instruction (HUC 8500.16), Final Announcement of the Courses of Instruction Offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for the Academic Year 1948-49, p. 75


Course Enrollment

[Economics] 143a (formerly Economics 43a). International Trade. (F) Professor Harris.

Total 120: 9 Graduates, 46 Seniors, 36 Juniors, 11 Sophomores, 1 Freshman, 12 Radcliffe, 5 Others.

Source: Harvard University. Report of the President of Harvard College and Reports of Departments, 1949-1950, p. 43.


Course Readings

Economics 143a
International Trade

  1. National Income and the Balance of Payments—4 weeks
    Relation of domestic policies and the balance of payments; the balance of payments of the United States and the United Kingdom; capital movements and reparations problems; dollar shortage and the E.R.P.

    1. *Harris; The European Recovery Program, pp. 1-120, 185-206, 272-276
    2. *Harrod; Are These Hardships Necessary? pp. 1-103
    3. United Nations; A Survey of the Economic Situation and Economic Prospects for Europe, pts. 2-5
  2. Regional Problems in the Balance of Payments—1 week
    No assignment.
  3. Industrialization and International Competition—1 week
    No assignment
  4. Monetary Aspects of International Trade—3 weeks

    1. Harris: The New Economics, pp. 246-293, 323-400
    2. *Ellsworth: International Economics, Part 1, Chs. 7, 9-11
  5. The Case for Free Trade and Obstacles to Trade—3 weeks
    Division of labor; comparative costs; tariffs and other obstacles; international commodity agreements and distribution of raw materials.
    Ellsworth, Part II, Chs. 1-5, 7-9
  6. The Problem of Allocation of Resources and Comparative Costs
    Ellsworth, Part I, Chs. 3-5

Reading Period Assignment—One of the Following:

  1. Staley: World Economic Development
  2. Buchanan and Lutz: Rebuilding the World Economy
  3. Marshall: Money, Credit, and Commerce, Pt. III
  4. Harris: Foreign Economic Policy for the United States

*To be bought.

Source:   :   Harvard University Archives. Syllabi, course outlines and reading lists in economics, 1895-2003. (HUC 8522.2.1), Box 4, Folder “Economics, 1949-50 (2 of 3)


Course Final Examination

International Trade

Spend forty-five minutes on each question. It is strongly suggested that you spend ten minutes assembling and organizing your thoughts before beginning each essay.

  1. Answer (a) or (b):
    1. It is a prerequisite for the establishment of interregional trade that relative prices would be different in one region from those in another if the regions were prevented from trading with one another. Why does this condition commonly occur, how does it lead to interregional trade, and in what way is that trade beneficial to the participating regions?
    2. Much of the theory of international trade attempts to explain how equilibrium in the balance of payments will be maintained by automatic tendencies. Present as fully as you can in the allotted time a classification and explanation of the forces working to frustrate these automatic tendencies and produce persistent dis
  2. Answer (a) or (b):
    1. Exchange depreciation has been resorted to in depression for reasons very different from those advanced for its use in periods of full employment. Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of depreciation in these two situations, making use of specific illustrations.
    2. The incorporation of national income analysis into international trade theory has led economists to distinguish helpfully corrective international economic policies from so-called beggar-thy-neighbor policies. How would you make such a distinction, and how effectively can it be applied?
  3. Answer (a) or (b):
    1. Comment on the relevance of the domestic policies of ERP countries for the attainment of international equilibrium by 1952.
    2. Discuss the reciprocal trade agreements program of the United States with reference to (1) the general arguments for and against tariffs, and (2) the limitations of tariff policy as a means of achieving international economic equilibrium.
  4. Answer one of the following with reference to your reading period assignment:
    1. What basic changes in the world economic structure have resulted from two World Wars, and how do they obstruct the reestablishment of stable multilateral trade?
    2. On what conditions does Staley base his case that, for existing industrial areas, it is possible to make the advantages of the economic development of new areas far outweigh the disadvantages? Discuss these conditions critically.
    3. Diagnoses of the widespread “dollar problem” differ according to (1) the definition of equilibrium adopted, and (2) the particular country under discussion. Discuss both these sources of variation in analysis. (Treat either one at greater length than the other if you wish.)
    4. Marshall is noted for his development of the theory of international supply and demand (commonly called “reciprocal demand”) as the determining influence on the barter terms of trade. Develop this part of his theory, and comment on some aspect or aspects of its relevance to current problems discussed in this course.

Final. January, 1950.


Source: Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations; History, History of Religions, Government, Economics,…,Military Science, Naval Science. February, 1950.

Image Source: Seymour Harris in Harvard Class Album 1947.


Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier