Anti-Quatitative History a Reaction to Fogel

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 11:15:00 -0700 (PDT)

I just learned that the strong anti-quantitative stance in history
departments in the last two decades is largely a reaction to Fogel's
'74 book "Time on the cross; the economics of American Negro Slavery".
In this book, Fogel argued that his quantitative analysis suggested
that while slavery was bad for the slaves, it was not economically
"inefficient" (in the sense that there was another arrangment that
would have made everyone better off). In general owners took care of
their property as one would a valuable machine, thought slaves were
worked harder than free men willingly would.

This position outraged historians, who called Fogel an ultra
conservative and racist. This though Fogel was an active member of
the communist party and was named one of the ten most dangerous
intellectuals during the 50s red scare. Quantitiative analysis has
ever since been a no-no in history departments, who say the
"contingent" nature of history makes numerical comparisons

Fogel is on the U of Chicago econ faculty, and won the economics Nobel
prize on '93.

Robin D. Hanson