The Worldly Philosophers

By Robert L. Heilbroner,

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Worldly Philosophers as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Are you looking for a good introduction to Economics?

Then, as I did, start with a brilliant survey of the main thinkers, who have shaped our understanding of the economic system. These economists’ thoughts ranged from addressing how to improve the quality of life for all, to understanding the source of value and the functioning of the economy.

Although they were not always accurate, their influence on contemporary Economics is tremendous, and Heilbroner's writing style will captivate you. I recommend this book to all of my students and colleagues.

In fact, after reading this book during my University studies, I…

From Panayotis' list on the evolution of economics.

If you know only little about the subject, this is where to start.

A brilliant survey of the main thinkers, from Smith via Marx to Keynes, it surveys the era of political economy, when economists pondered how to make life better for all.

Not always correctly, not always in good faith, but their thinking formed our understanding of the world.

While you are at it, get the flavour of the real thing, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776, find Edmund Cannan’s edition, still in print or secondhand) – the best book in economics and one of the greatest ever. 

From Avner's list on the history of economic thought.

Lively writing on the lives of 16 economists, this is a classical introduction to the evolution of ideas from the early classical economists to John Maynard Keynes. It must be good – first written in 1953, it has now sold 4 million copies, and is the second-most-read economics text after Samuelson’s Economics. I like the way it presents economists as people in their time.

Most people would agree that economics is an important subject, but it can be a challenge to translate that importance into graceful prose. I defy anyone to read this book and not be enthralled. If I had to pick only one book to convert people to the subject this would be it. Modern economics (as it is taught at university) has become highly mathematical and abstract, not just bone dry, but positively fossilized. The Worldly Philosophers bring those bones to life. It sets economics in its historical and cultural context and explains why it matters. I am resistant to prose…

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