“The economic history group at Wisconsin was one of the finest in the mid-1960s, and it was to get better….”
“All in all, I would describe Wisconsin in the mid-1970s as one of the top three or four centers in economic history in the world”
Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1985 Interview in Economists at Wisconsin, 1892-1992
As a field of academic inquiry in the U.S., economic history was the interdisciplinary child of the Great Merger movement (1895-1904). Economic historians—at the UW and elsewhere—were found in both economics and history departments. Encompassing an array of now separate fields (business, technology, labor, agriculture, economic history), economic history was integral to the larger discipline of history.
UW-Madison emerged as a prominent center for economic history, nationally and internationally. By 1964, a Graduate Program in Economic History had been established, and the History Department’s course listings in 1964-1966 Course Catalog included a new category, Economic History, with eighteen courses.
Austerity in the 1970s and the growing inaccessibility of the field to historians (as economic historians increasingly employed the tools of economists) saw the UW’s stature in the field decline.
Sources: Jeffrey G. Williamson, “The Rise and Fall of Economic History at Wisconsin,” in Economists at Wisconsin: 1892-1992, ed. Robert J. Lampman (1993), 205-209; UW Course Catalog, 1964-1966 (pdf), 188-189.