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Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic but nowadays not without competition, 30 Jun. 2009
This review is from: The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin Business Library) (Paperback)
Heilbroner's "The Worldly Philosophers" well deserves its classic status and is now published by Penguin in its seventh and final edition. What strikes one throughout the book is the elegance of Heilbroner's writing, which alone supports its on-the-whole justified reputation as the best short introduction to the history of economics in print. That said, however, other writers have been catching up and it is no longer nit-picking to point out some of the things that Heilbroner omitted.

He begins with Adam Smith but the discipline of economics did not *start* with Smith. Pressman's "Fifty Major Economists" for example goes back to Thomas Mun in the 16th century, while in "The Penguin History of Economics" Backhouse starts in Ancient Greece. By today's standards, therefore, Heilbroner is not without flaws.

Then again one should remember the subtitle, "The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers" and note that Heilbroner leans more towards speaking of economists themselves than towards describing the development and application of economic concepts (for which again IMO Backhouse is better).

These reservations aside, this book holds a special regard among the many who have read it. My overall verdict: There is no finer introductory book in this field but serious students should be aware of its limitations. If you want to get your teeth into this subject, read Heilbroner, Pressman and Backhouse in that order. Then you will be much better equipped for deeper study.
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