Goodbye to a great monetary historian – R.I.P. Anna Schwartz

Yesterday, Anna Schwartz passed away in her New York City home at an age of 96. Anna Schwartz undoubtedly was one of the greatest monetary historians ever and her masterpiece A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960″ , which she co-authored with Milton Friedman was instrumental in changing how economic historians view the causes of the Great Depression.

Anna Schwartz’s analysis lead her to conclude that the Great Depression was caused by monetary policy failure. Or as Ben Bernanke said in 2002:

  “I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression, you’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry, but thanks to you we won’t do it again.” 

There is no way around it – Monetary History is one of the greatest works of economics ever produced and surely one of the most important – if not the most important – book on monetary history ever written.

Somewhat unfairly Anna Schwartz never got the full recognition for her work that she deserved. How the Nobel Prize committee never awarded her the Nobel Prize in economics will forever be a puzzle.

It is a testimony to her hard work and intellect that she continued to work with Michael Bordo and Owen Humpage on a project on the history of government intervention in currency markets after breaking a hip in 2009 and having a stroke (See here and here).

While I did not agree with her analysis of the Great Recession – exactly because I agree with her analysis of the Great Depression – I will forever think of Anna Schwartz as one of the greatest monetary historians with an amazing intellect.

Anna Schwartz R.I.P.


For an overview of Anna Schwartz work see here.

Update: Read also George Selgin’s tribute to “Anna”

Leave a comment


  1. dwb

     /  June 22, 2012

    i saw a debate with her and 3 others from a couple years ago (posted on the WSJ website). I hope i am 1/3 as smart and lucid as her when i am 93.


    in case you missed it, this is an absolute gem

    the irony…

  2. dwb, yes she was amazing.

    Interesting stuff from Alphaville. It is basically what Britmouse also has suggested

    • dwb

       /  June 22, 2012

      yeah, i recalled that, why i thought youd be interested. of course, what is ironic (is a sad way) is that they dug up an old Bernanke speech from 2002 where he suggested it. Bernanke was a smart guy, maybe the Fed chair should listen to him sometime.

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