Much of what follows is a highly speculative sketch on the historical development of economic journals; we are looking for any good resource or authority on the history of these journals to correct our brief account.
Key: * - "Light", "political" or "news-oriented" economics
# - not principally dedicated to economics; only occasionally publishes economics essays.
Dates specify date of first issue (and, if applicable, last issue). Journals are ordered chronologically from date of first issue. Acronyms and nicknames we use in this website are given under journal titles. (Click here for alphabetical list of journal acronyms)
The means of communication of economic ideas have, of course, varied over the centuries. Medieval scholastic writers expressed their economic theories mostly in religious treatises on law and justice (half of them titled De justitie et jure!). In the 17th and 18th Centuries, Mercantilists and other economic writers published their work (usually anonymously) as popular pamphlets and books, mostly privately printed and privately distributed. Throughout this time, only a handful of regularly-published journals existed. These were set up largely to review scientific literature that was published elsewhere rather than as a repository for new essay-length treatises. The following were the two leading journals in Europe:
Journal des Savants (France, 1665-)#
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Britain, 1665-)#
Enlightenment Journals (c. 1750-1800)
Around the mid-18th Century, gripped by the Enlightenment spirit, a new means of communication emerged, the learned journal or review. The demand during this period was clear: the middle classes were looking for "self-improvement", the educated classes looking for exciting debates and new ideas, and for the nobility looking for topics for social conversation (perfect for poseurs!).
The success of Denis Diderot's Encyclop・ｽdie, published between 1751 and 1765, was the great spur for the development of journals. True, the public had always demanded magazines -- weekly or monthly publications dedicated to witty, political position papers, current news or contemporary dramatic and literary criticism, like the early 18th century light magazines Mercure de France or the Tatler. But what the Encyclop・ｽdie specifically taught was that the public was willing to digest high-level theoretical essays -- bound together, published regularly over time and distributed as fascicules to subscribers. In short, journals. It seems as if encyclopedias, and not magazines, are the true antecedents of the modern scholarly journal.
There was an explosion of high-quality learned journals in the 1750s and 1760s, particularly in France. Several of them were exclusively dedicated to serious treatises on political economy. The following were the leading journals of the period where economic writers were welcome:
Scots Magazine (Britain, 1739-1826)#
Encyclop・ｽdie, ou Dictionnaire raisonn・ｽEdes sciences, des métiers et des arts. (France, 1751-1765)#
Journal oeconomique (France, 1751-1772)
Novelliste Oeconomique et Littéraire (France, 1754-1761)
Edinburgh Review (Britain, 1755-1756)#
Journal du Commerce (Belgium, 1759-1762)
Gazette du Commerce (France, 1763-1783)*
Journal d'agriculture, du commerce et des finances (France, 1765-1783)
Ephémérides du Citoyen (France, 1765-1772)
Nouvelles Ephémérides Economiques (France, 1774-1766, 1788?).
Ephemeriden der Menschheit (Germany, 1776-1782)
Treatises and Reviews (c.1800-1850)
Then something happened. We are not quite sure what, but it seems as if, by at least the early 1790s, many of the learned journals specialized in economics disappeared. Doubtlessly, some were closed down by the nervousness of kings and clergy. Perhaps this was reinforced by the passing of the Enlightenment's penchant for self-improvement and the subsequent exigencies of revolution and war. We are not quite sure.
What seems certain is that the means of economic communication entered a new phase. Economic essays continued to be written, but without specialized journals, distribution was a problem. For the most part, essay-length treatises either became privately-published pamphlets, or entries into encyclopedias (and numerous ones were intermittently cobbled together) or were snuck into the (few) existing journals of other scientific fields (statistical journals were a particular favorite).
Alternatively, they could write a book. It was around this time that the first book-length (and, more interestingly, signed) treatises in economics began to appear. The first were probably those of Sir James Steuart (1767) and Adam Smith (1776). Virtually every economist of the time -- such as Say, Ricardo and Malthus -- eventually attempted their hand at a comprehensive, book-length "treatise". While excellent in offering the author free reign in abstract theorizing, the book-length treatise was not always a good means of transmitting new ideas and generating scholarly debate. Often written as textbooks (to convince publishers of sales value), readers would have to dig through two hundred or so pages of elementary, well-known basic principles and mountains of definitions and illustrative examples, before finally reaching the theoretical "meat".
But wasn't this the time of the great British "reviews", the age of the Edinburgh Review, the Quarterly Review, the Westminster Review, etc? Indeed, but these reviews were of a different flavor than the earlier specialized journal. The reviews that emerged in Great Britain in the early 19th Century were generally mass literary and political journals. They resembled the light, news-oriented, general-topic magazine much more than the serious, focused, learned journal of the Enlightenment. Economists did write essays in the reviews, and often quite good ones, but, in general, any such essays had to be either geared to, say, a particular economic policy under debate in parliament, or mere elucidations of economic principles for general "low-brow" consumption (along the same lines as the wildly popular "textbooks" by Jane Marcet (1816) and Harriet Martineau (1834)). Except for a few notable instances, "serious", abstract economics could not generally be done in these reviews.
One should also take note of the emergence of magazines such as the weekly The Economist and the monthly Journal des ・ｽconomistes. Lighter and more journalistic than the reviews, these magazines were at least a bit more focused on issues related to political economy. Naturally, there was even less room for abstract theoretical essays in these magazines, but they were important channels by which economists could influence the general public opinion on economic policies and issues of the day.
The following is a selection of the the major periodicals of this era:
La D・ｽcade philosophique (France, 1794-?)
Journal des d・ｽbats (1789-1842)*#
Journal d'économie publique, de morale et de politique (France, 1796-?)*
Annales de statistique, ou Journal d'・ｽconomie politique, industrielle et commerciale, de géographie, d'histoire naturelle, d'agriculture, de physique, d'hygi・ｽne et de littérature (France, 1801-?)#
Edinburgh Review (Britain, 1809-1929)#
Quarterly Review (Britain 1809-1929)#
Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (Britain, 1817-1980)*#
Revue Encyclop・ｽdique (France, 1819-1835)#
Westminster Review (Britain, 1828-1914)#
The Spectator (Britain, 1828-)*#
Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country (Britain, 1830-)*#
Proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Britain, 1833-)
Journal of the (Royal) Statistical Society of London (Britain, 1838-)#
Bulletin of Manchester Statistical Society (Britain, 1833-)#
Journal des économistes (France, 1841-1940)*
New York Daily Tribune (U.S., 1841-1924)
Punch Magazine (Britain, 1841-)*#
Rheinische Zeitung f・ｽE Politik, Handel und Gewerbe (Germany, 1842-1843)
The Economist (Britain, 1843-)*
New Englander and Yale Review (U.S., 1843-)*#
Libre-・ｽchange (France, 1846-?)*
Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Organ f・ｽE demokratie (Germany, 1848-1849)
Emergence of Academic Economics Journals (c.1850-c.1915)
The specialized, scholarly journals we are familiar with today emerged around mid-century in Central Europe. The serious research traditions and early academic professionalization in Continental European universities required a serious outlet -- and this generated the resurrection of the scholarly journal.
The Anglo-American universities, which still seemed like "young gentlemen finishing schools" during much of this period , caught up much more slowly. However, nearing the turn of the century, there emerged a series of "new" research universities along Continental lines, such as Johns Hopkins, Chicago, M.I.T. and the L.S.E.. The research needs and the competitive spirit of these fledgling institutions encouraged the exploration of various avenues by which to make their institutional mark on the academic landscape. At every step, their efforts were copied by the older universities such as Cambridge, Harvard and Yale who were eager not to be left behind and, in the process, reinvented themselves as research schools. Creating professional associations and launching journals was a quick way of raising the profile of a university and stamping it as a "serious" research institution. Hosting a journal is always good way to attract attention, but what is even better is that by controlling the editorship of the house journal, the universities simultaneously ensured that their own faculty's publication lists will climb a lot faster than those of others.
The incentive to establish journals in economics was even greater than for other fields: recall that the status of economics as a serious, "scientific" subject was in grave doubt in the 1860s and 1870s, thus anything that could be done to "legitimize" it professionally was encouraged. Thus, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the American Economic Association, the Royal Economic Society, the Journal of Political Economy, etc. were all clear attempts by professional academic economists to not only raise the profiles of their universities on a national scale, but also that of their departments within the university.
Also worth mentioning was the rise of the left-wing economics magazine during this period. As labor movements, cooperatives and more radical socialist movements emerged, they found themselves uniformly opposed by the conventional reviews and magazines. They thus created their own -- not only to influence wider public opinion, but also to raise the political and economic consciousness of the working classes they claimed to represent. Most of these did not last long -- usually for lack of funds and/or political suppression. But a handful of ones -- particular those associated with established parties (e.g. Labour in Britain) -- managed to survive into the next era.
The following economics periodicals were begun in this period:
Zeitschrift für die gesamte staatswissenschaft (Germany, 1844-)
Bulletin de la Sociét・ｽEd'・ｽconomie politique (France,1846-)
De Economist ((Netherlands, 1852-)
The Atlantic Monthly (U.S., 1857-)*#
Macmillan's Magazine (Britain, 1859-?)
Jahrbücher für nationalökonomie und statistik (German, 1863-)
Fortnightly Review (Britain, 1865-1954 )*#
Contemporary Review (Britain, 1866- )*#
Jahrbuch f・ｽE Verwaltung und Rechtspflege des Deutschen Reichs (Germany, 1871-)
L'Économiste français (1873 -1937)*
Giornale degli Economisti (Italy, 1875-)
Mind (Britain, 1876-)#
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S., 1877-)#
La r・ｽforme sociale, (France, 1881-1930)
Die Neue Zeit: Revue des geistigen und ・ｽffentlichen Lebens (Germany, 1883-1923)
Annuaire de l'économie politique et de la statistique (France, 1884-1899)
The Commonweal (Britain, 1885-1895)*#
Quarterly Journal of Economics (U.S., 1886-)
Political Science Quarterly (U.S., 1886-)#
Revue d'économie politique (France, 1887-)
REP. Major economics journal founded by Charles Gide (with the encouragement of Léon Walras) as a counter-weight to the liberal Journal des ・ｽconomistes. The eclectic REP offered a haven for all sorts of approaches, including those of French syndicalist-socialists and the Lausanne School. Under Gide's long and judicious editorship (he retired only in 1932), the REP became France's most prestigious economics journal. Partly archived online at Gallica
Statsøkonomisk tidsskrift (Norway, 1887-)
Journal of American Statistical Association (U.S.,1888-)
Economic Journal (Britain, 1891-)
Economic Review (Britain, 1891-1914)
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (U.S., 1890-)#
The Clarion (Britain, 1891-1931)*#
Journal of Political Economy (U.S., 1892-)
Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft und Sozialpolitik (Austria, 1892-)
Dictionary of Political Economy (Britain, 1894-99)
Statsvetenskaplig tidskrift för politik-statistik-ekonomik (Sweden, 1897-?)
Ekonomisk Tidskrift (Sweden,1899-).
Biometrika (Britain, 1901-)#
Revue économique internationale (Belgium, 1904-1940)
Proceedings of the American Political Science Association (U.S., 1904-, then American Political Science Review, 1913-)#
The Nation (Britain, 1907-1931)*#
Revue d'histoire économique et sociale (France, 1908-)
Bulletin of the American Economic Association (U.S., 1908-1910)
American Economic Review (U.S., 1911-)
Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik (Germany, 1911-1923)
The New Statesman (Britain, 1912-)*#
The International Institutional Wave (c. 1915-c.1970)
The experience of the previous period demonstrated that a journal was a particularly effective way of advertising an institution like a university or a professional association. After World War I, numerous "new" institutions hungry for attention absorbed the lesson and put out a journal. Many of these institutions included attention-hungry universities like L.S.E, Manchester, Osaka, Oxford, Louvain, the New School, etc. New research institutes, like Kiel Institute and the Institut de Sciences Economiques Appliqueés, did the same. In a peculiar twist, entire countries (e.g. Australia, South Africa, Canada, Scotland, etc.) brought out journals as flag-carriers, symbols of national research prestige. Even commercial banks and companies, such as Lloyds and Banca Nazionale de Lavoro introduced house journals.
A second kind of journal emerged in this period -- namely, those created in response to the restrictive editorial policies of the older journals. Particularly important were Econometrica and the Review of Economic Studies created by economists frustrated at the anti-mathematical bent of the existing journals. Similarly, Metroeconomica and the Journal of Economic Issues, were created in response to the refusal of older journals to consider articles which were not written in accordance with the dominant Anglo-American economic orthodoxy of the day.
The following journals were created during this period (many institutionally-backed journals are generalist, so we don't give details for all).
Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv (Germany, 1913-)
Chinese Social and Political Science Review (China, 1916-1937)
Review of Economics and Statistics (U.S., 1919-)
Economica (Britain, 1921-)
International Labour Review (International, 1921-)
Zeitschrift f・ｽE Volkswirtschaft und Socialpolitik (Austria, 1921-1927)
Journal of Business (U.S., 1922-)
Annali di economia (Italy, 1924-)
Economic Record (Australia, 1924-)
Kyoto University Economic Review (Japan, 1926-?)
Economic History Review (Britain, 1927-)
Recherches économiques de Louvain (Belgium, 1929-)
Zeitschrift f・ｽE National・ｽkonomie (Austria, 1929-)
Annales d'histoire économique et sociale (France, 1929-)
The Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies (Britain, 1929-)
Lloyds Bank Review (Britain, 1930-)
Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (US, 1937-)
Econometrica (International, 1933-)
Review of Economic Studies (Britain, 1933-)
South African Journal of Economics (South Africa, 1933-)
Southern Economic Journal (U.S., 1933-)
El Trimestre Economico (Mexico, 1934-)
Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science (Canada, 1934-)
Social Research (U.S., 1934-)#
Oxford Economic Papers (Britain, 1938-)
Journal of Economic History (U.S., 1941-)
American Journal of Economics and Sociology (U.S., 1941-)
Revue ・ｽconomique et sociale (Switzerland, 1943-)
Review of Social Economy (US, 1944-)
Revista de economía política (Spain, 1945-)
Journal of Finance (U.S., 1946-)
Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review (Italy, 1947-)
International Organization (US, 1947-)#
Ricerche economiche (Italy, 1947-)
Economia internazionale (Italy, 1948-)
・ｽconomie appliquée (France, 1948-)
Monthly Review (US, 1948-)
Kyklos (Switzerland, 1948)
Metroeconomica (International, 1949-)
Economic Studies Quarterly (Japan, 1949-)
Revue ・ｽconomique (France, 1950-)
Osaka Economic Papers (Japan, 1952-)
Challenge: The Magazine of economic affairs (US, 1952-)*
Journal of Industrial Economics (International, 1952-)
Economic Development and Cultural Change (US, 1952-)
Scottish Journal of Political Economy (Britain, 1953-)
SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics (US, 1953-)#
IMF Staff Papers (International, 1954)
American Economist (U.S., 1957-)*
Journal of Law and Economics (U.S., 1958-)
Cahiers économiques de Bruxelles (Belgium, 1958-)
Problems of Economics (Soviet Union, 1958-)
New Left Review (Britain, 1960-)*#
International Economic Review (International, 1960-)
Western Economic Journal (U.S., 1962)
Australian Economic Papers (Australia, 1962-)
Cuadernos de economía (Chile, 1963-)
Journal of Development Studies (Britain, 1964)
Matekon (Soviet Union, 1964-)
Journal of Economic Issues (U.S., 1967-)
Economies et sociétés (France, 1967-)
Kredit und Kapital (Germany, 1968-)
The Flood: Specialization and Heterodoxy (c.1970 - Now)
The rise in the number of institutionally-backed economics journals did not serve the exploding economics profession too well. Although they relieved a good amount of backlog that had been accumulating, they were not specialist journals. But academic economists are specialized people. That means that the average subscriber to, say, the Bohemian Journal of Economics would have to consider himself extraordinarily lucky to find one or two articles of interest in every journal issue he received.
A specialized journal would be nice, they thought, but which institution is to provide it? The easiest way was to form haphazard "societies" in a specialized academic subject and then hire a commercial publishing house to publish the "society's" journal. Sometimes, one can dispense with the society altogether. It was in some version of this that specialized journals -- such as the Journal of Economic Theory or the Journal of Public Economics -- emerged.
Many of these were highly successful, climbing quickly in prestige over the older institution-backed journals. The need was certainly there for many of them. But by the late 1980s, and certainly the mid-1990s, many people argue that things have gone perhaps a bit overboard (not only in economics, but in many other fields as well).
Specifically, the big commercial publishing houses (you know who they are) caught on to the game quickly enough. Whatever journal we put out, they must have realized, there is always a demand (i.e. at worst, there are the university libraries who are generally "forced" to buy them). Similarly, there is always a supply (economists, pressed by "publish-or-perish", always have articles). And finding an editor is always easy (editorship of a journal brings professional prestige to an individual in the academic rat race -- a slight variation on the institutional prestige theme we talked about earlier). So, in recent years, the publishing houses have been pushing journals like there was no tomorrow: every topic and sub-topic and sub-sub-topic has its own journal today.
It is easy to see why this has gone too far: most are unaffordable to individuals (exhorbitant prices are set to gouge libraries), quality per issue has declined (the few good articles in a field end up being spread too thin among the many competing journals) and, some claim, the situation has degenerated to the point where the publishing houses will gleefully put out "personal boutique" journals -- where little beyond the editor's own vanity or bid for self-promotion justifies its existence. Currently, economics is the discipline with the largest number of new journals every year.
Specialization, of course, breeds blinders -- so demand for a second type of journal -- the "survey" journal -- emerged in this period. These journals collect and publish comprehensive and easy-to-understand surveys of the state of the art in various topics and fields. Such surveys used to be occasionally published by the conventional journals such as Econometrica, as a way for specialists in other fields to have an idea what was going on somewhere else. However, the degree of specialization in economics is such that more surveys are necessary, and ever more often, and ever simpler. There are now a handful of journals, such as the Journal of Economic Literature and the Journal of Economic Perspectives, dedicated exclusively to surveys.
[It has been speculated that the old general-purpose conventional journals might eventually be done in by this trend: economists today are happy enough to concentrate all their journal-reading on their own specialized sub-sub-field journal, and a couple of general survey journals.]
A third type of journal emerged in this period: the heterodox journal, such as the Review of Radical Political Economy, the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, the Cambridge Journal of Economics, etc. These were established as non-mainstream economists were increasingly blocked out of the existing journals. Consequently, they organized themselves and formed journals dedicated to their own school-of-thought -- not unlike the mathematical economists did with Econometrica and RES in the early 1930s.. We should emphasize that the heterodox journal arose not out of a bid by a school of thought for institutional legitimacy. Indeed, quite the reverse: the worst thing for a school of thought to do is to "ghettoize" itself out of the mainstream with a journal (there is an exception to this rule: the early prestige of the JPE ensured that the Chicago School could ghettoize itself without appearing to actually do so). Rather, the emergence of the heterodox journal was an indicator of how bad things really got in terms of editorial decisions of the conventional journals.
The following journals were established in this period. We cannot hope to list all the publishing house journals here so the list just captures a few of the (more legitimate) earlier ones. As most have self-explanatory titles, we do not bother to give details.
Journal of Economic Theory (International, 1969-)
Journal of Economic Literature (U.S., 1969-)
Review of Radical Political Economy (US, 1969-)
European Economic Review (Europe, 1969-)
History of Political Economy (International, 1969-)
Journal of Money, Credit and Banking (US, 1969-)
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (U.S. 1970-)
Bell Journal of Economics (US, 1970-, turned into RAND Journal of Economics, 1984-)
Journal of International Economics (International, 1971-)
International Journal of Game Theory (International, 1971)
Journal of Public Economics (International, 1972-)
Journal of Monetary Economics (International, 1972-)
Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy (U.S., 1973-)
Journal of Econometrics (International, 1973-)
Atlantic Economic Journal (International, 1973-)
Eastern Economic Journal (U.S., 1974-)
Journal of Mathematical Economics (International, 1974-)
Journal of Development Economics (International, 1974-)
Cahiers d'économie politique (France, 1974-)
Cambridge Journal of Economics (Britain, 1977-)
Economics Letters (International, 1978-)
Journal of Post Keynesian Economics (US, 1978-)
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control (International, 1979)
Mathematical Social Sciences (International, 1981-)
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (International, 1980)
The New Palgrave: A dictionary of economics (International, 1987)
Journal of Economic Perspectives (US, 1987-)
Review of Austrian Economics (International, 1987)
Economic Systems Research (International, 1988-)
Games and Economic Behavior (International, 1989-)
Review of Political Economy (US, 1989-)
Structural Change and Economic Dynamics (International, 1990-)
Journal of Evolutionary Economics (International, 1990-)
The American Prospect (U.S., 1990-)*#
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