Book Review: The sage who was reluctant to publish

A Soaring Eagle, Alfred Marshall, 1842 – 1924
by Peter Groenewegen
Cheltenham: Elgar. £59.95

This is the first full-length biography of Alfred Marshall, founder of the Cambridge School of Economics, and the dominant force in British economics from the death of Mill to the rise of Keynes. Hitherto we have had to make do with Keynes’s Memoir, published almost immediately after Marshall’s death in 1924; no acute deprivation as it is one of the finest short lives of a man of science ever written. Peter Groenewegen, a professor of economics at Sydney University, who specializes in the history of economic thought, has risen manfully to the challenge of converting Keynes’s brilliant sketch into a fully rounded portrait. For this, despite small corrections and big amplifications, is essentially what his book is. What Keynes says in seventy pages, Professor Groenewegen says in 700. It has taken him ten years to write. It is full of interesting detail, exhaustive in its research and exhausting to read, sensible and sensitive in its judgments. It could have been better done, but having been done is unlikely to be superseded.

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