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Walton Hamilton, Amherst, and the Brookings Graduate School: Institutonal Economics and Education

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Walton Hamilton was one of the major promoters of American institutionalism in the interwar period. Apart from his own writing - he introduced the term institutional economics into the literature in a 1918 conference paper - Hamilton was closely associated with the creation of educational programs with a decidedly institutionalist orientation. At Amherst College from 1916 to 1923 and at the Robert Brooking Graduate School between 1923 and 1928, Hamilton and his colleagues engaged in interesting experiments in economics education, and produced a quite remarkable stream of graduates. This paper will outline the programs developed by Hamilton, and the subsequent careers of many of the graduates, in both academics (in economics, political science, and law) and in government service. Many of Hamilton's students occupied key positions in the New Deal and, later, in international organizations such as the ILO and United Nations. In 1928 the Institute for Government Research and the Institute of Economics were merged into what became the Brookings Institution, and the Robert Brookings Graduate School was abandoned as a separate entity. The reasons for this seem to have included funding difficulties, internal politics, and Robert Brooking's concerns over the direction the School had taken. The closing of the School was an event that caused much anguish and public dispute. Hamilton left to join Yale Law School, and an important centre for institutional economics was lost. The paper will draw on archive material including the Walton Hamilton Papers, the Archives of the Brookings Institution, and an archive of taped interviews with former graduates of Brookings. These were conducted in the early 1970s by Robert Coleberd as part of a project on the Brookings Graduate School. He never completed this project, and deposited the tapes in the Brookings Institution Archive. As far as I am aware this material has not been accessed before.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Victoria in its series Department Discussion Papers with number 0104.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: 16 Oct 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:vic:vicddp:0104

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  1. Malcolm Rutherford, 2001. "Institutional Economics: Then and Now," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 173-194, Summer.
  2. Willard Long Thorp, 1926. "Business Annals," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number thor26-1, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Hugh Rockoff, 2006. "On the Origins of "A Monetary History"," NBER Working Papers 12666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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