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Radcliffe. Economics courses offered by Harvard professors with descriptions, 1893-94


Information about economics courses offered for women by Harvard professors before Radcliffe College officially came into existence (1879-1893) were included in an earlier post. Today’s post provides course descriptions for the four course offerings in economics in Radcliffe’s first year of existence. Besides the obvious interest for the intersection of gender and history of economics, the course descriptions turn out to be more detailed in these Radcliffe Presidential Reports at this time than what I can find in the corresponding Harvard catalogues.


Radcliffe College, 1893-94

(Primarily for Undergraduates.)

PROFESSOR [EDWARD] CUMMINGS. — Outlines of Economics. — Mill’s Principles of Political Economy. — Lectures on Economic Development, Distribution, Social Questions, and Financial Legislation. This course gave a general introduction to Economic study, and a general view of Economics sufficient for those who had not further time to give to the subject. It was designed also to give intellectual discipline by the careful discussion of principles and reasoning.

The instruction was given by question and discussion. J. S. Mill’s Principles of Political Economy formed the basis of the work. At intervals lectures were given which served to illustrate and supplement the class-room instruction. In connection with the lectures, a course of reading was prescribed. The work of students was tested from time to time by examinations and other written work. — 16 students.


PROFESSOR [WILLIAM JAMES] ASHLEY. — The Elements of Economic History from the Middle Ages to Modern Times. The object of this course was to give a general view of the economic development of society from the Middle Ages to the present time. It dealt, among others, with the following topics: the manorial system and serfdom; the merchant gilds and mediaeval trade; the craft gilds and mediaeval industry; the commercial supremacy of the Italian and Hanseatic merchants; the merchant adventurers and the great trading companies; the agrarian changes of the sixteenth century; domestic industry; the struggle of England with Holland and France for commercial supremacy; the beginning of modern finance; the progress of farming; the great inventions and the factory system; modern business methods; and recent financial history.

During the earlier part of the course attention was devoted chiefly to England, but that country was treated as illustrating the broader features of the economic evolution of the whole of western Europe. Arrived at the 17th century, it was shown how English conditions were modified by transference to America; and from that point an attempt was made to trace the parallel movement of English and American affairs and their mutual influence. — 8 students.


(For Graduates and Undergraduates.)

PROFESSOR [EDWARD] CUMMINGS. — The Principles of Sociology. — Development of Modern State, and of its Social Functions. An introductory course in sociology, intended to give a comprehensive view of the structure and development of society in relation to some of the more characteristic ethical and industrial tendencies of the present day. The course began with a theoretical consideration of the relation of the individual to society and to the state, — with a view to pointing out some theoretical misconceptions and practical errors traceable to an illegitimate use of the fundamental analogies and metaphysical formulas found in Comte, Spencer, P. Leroy Beaulieu, Schaeffle, and other writers.

The second part followed more in detail the ethical and economic growth of society. Beginning with the development of social instincts manifested in voluntary organization, it considered the genesis and theory of natural rights, the function of legislation, the sociological significance of the status of women and of the family and other institutions, — with a view to tracing the evolution of certain types of society based upon a more or less complete recognition of the social ideas already considered.

The last part dealt with certain tendencies of the modern state, discussing especially the province and limits of state activity, with some comparison of the Anglo-Saxon and the continental theory and practice in regard to private initiative and state intervention in relation to public works, industrial development, philanthrophy, education, labor organization, and the like.

Each student selected for special investigation some question closely related to the theoretical or practical aspects of the course; and a certain amount of systematic reading was expected. — 4 students.


(Primarily for Graduates.)

PROFESSOR [WILLIAM JAMES] ASHLEY. — Seminary in Economic History. Two students were engaged in investigations under the guidance of the Professor. Of these, one was occupied in the study of the English Poor Law and its administration, and especially of the various attempts in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to deal with the “unemployed.” The other was studying the original materials for English manorial and agrarian history in the Middle Ages; and has prepared what is believed to be a fairly exhaustive list of such materials as are already in print, classified and arranged both chronologically and topographically. This list has been published by Messrs. Ginn & Co., under the authority of Radcliffe College, as Radcliffe College Monograph. No. 6. [Frances Gardiner Davenport, A. B., A Classified List of Printed Original Materials for English Manorial And Agrarian history during the Middle Ages, prepared under the direction of W. J. Ashley, M. A., Professor of Economic History in Harvard University.]


Source: Radcliffe College. Reports of the President, Regent, and Treasurer 1894, pp. 49-51.

Image Source: From the cover of the 1893 Radcliffe Yearbook.



Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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