About the Cliometric Society

The Cliometric Society is an academic organization of individuals interested in the use of economic theory and statistical techniques to study economic history. Founded in 1983, The Cliometric Society is now a chartered, not-for-profit, corporation in the State of Wisconsin. The Society office is located at the Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, WI 54601. The Cliometric Society maintains a worldwide membership of 500 respected and influential practitioners in both academic and professional fields. The Board of Trustees includes nationally and internationally prominent individuals in economic history. The Society's By-Laws include provisions for the advancement of scholarship, with an emphasis on methodology and practice, and the promotion of educational opportunities for young scholars.

The Cliometric Society publishes the Cliometric Newsletter twice each year. These publications inform members of the latest research through reports of economic history conferences around the world. Each issue features an interview with an outstanding, scholar in the field. Abstracts of papers presented at significant conferences are provided with the newsletter as inserts, and members are notified of upcoming meetings and conferences through notices and Calls for Papers.

Encouraging communication among scholars, the Society maintains a database of membership information, notably research interests and areas of expertise, enabling members to share their work in progress through the Society's participation in the Eh.Net scholarly network.

The Cliometric Society actively promotes members' involvement with other scholarly societies. In 1992, the Society arranged a dual membership option with the European Historical Economics Society. In addition, the Cliometric Society sponsors sessions at the annual Allied Social Science Association meetings, which are held annually around the United States.  In 2010 the Cliometric Society began sponsoring sessions at the Western Economic Association International meetings, which are held each summer. And the Society has long been a member organization of the International Economic History Association, sponsoring sessions at the International Economic History Congresses.

Possibly the most noteworthy accomplishment of the Society is the continuation of the tradition surrounding its origin: An annual Conference, initiated in 1960, that encourages the spirit of Cliometric inquiry and debate, and promotes working relationships among young and seasoned Cliometricians. For more than 20 years, the Conference has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation. The NSF regards the Cliometrics Conference as one of the most successful conferences it supports, frequently citing it as a model for other similar organizations.

As an outgrowth of the Annual Cliometrics Conference, the Cliometric Society has presented, in cooperation with other scholarly organizations, six World Congresses of Cliometrics. The first World Congress was held at Northwestern University in 1985; the second in Santander, Spain in 1989; the third in Munich, Germany in 1997; the fourth in Montreal, Canada in 2000; and the fifth in Venice, Italy in 2004; and the sixth in Dalkeith, Scotland in 2008. To date, more than five hundred economic historians from around the world have participated as authors and discussants of landmark research papers at these World Congresses.  The next World Congress will be held in Hawaii in 2013.

What is Cliometrics?

Answers vary: "historical economics," the "economics of history," "econometric history" -- not many years ago, it was called the "new" economic history. The conclusion is all of the above. Stanley Reiter, a mathematical economist, who was "musing" for a word that described the quantitative economic history work he was discussing with colleagues, coined the word itself in 1960. He joined the Muse of History, Clio, with the suffix "metrics" from the word "econometrics." Hence, "Cliometrics." The term has evolved. Today a common definition is that Cliometrics is the application of economic theory and quantitative techniques to describe and explain historical events. In addition to economic theory and econometrics, Cliometricians often use large data sets to examine the past. To quote Deirdre McCloskey, one of the founders of the Society: "Cliometrics" is too easily construed from the Greek to mean simply quantitative history, rather than the application of quantitative and theoretical techniques to the study of historical phenomena.

History of Cliometrics

Many cliometricians date the birth of the field to the 1957 joint sessions of the Economic History Association and the NBER Conference on Income and Wealth held in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Papers presented there introduced the use of methodologies that were considered revolutionary -- and which subsequently became standard Cliometric practice. Three years later, in 1960, Lance Davis and J.R.T. Hughes organized a conference for the small group of scholars pioneering the practice of these new methods.

This initial meeting evolved into an annual conference held at Purdue University throughout the decade, attended by a growing number of Cliometricians. By 1964, the "Founding Fathers" ignited national interest in this new field with their session at the American Economic Association meeting in Chicago, attended by hundreds. In 1969, the Conference moved from Purdue to the University of Wisconsin, and again in 1975, to the University of Chicago. Since 1980, the Conference has moved around the country.  It is hosted by a different university each year.

In 2009 the Board of Trustees established procedures for the election of Fellows of the Cliometric Society.  The Cliometric Society will begin to honor outstanding scholarship in the field of economic history through its election of Fellows of the Society in 2010.  Each year Fellows will be elected on the basis of their contributions to the field of economic history.  Fellows must have published contributions to the field that are markedly original and have significantly advanced the frontiers of knowledge.