Economics 99FCS-36

Syllabus: Fall 2009

Professor E. Roy Weintraub

 Office: Social Sciences 07D; Phone (and voice mail): 660-1838; E-mail:


This seminar will examine the life and work of one of the truly

important figures of the twentieth century, John Maynard Keynes.

The context of the development of Keynes's thought in late Victorian Cambridge,

and the influence of Moore and the Apostles, sets the stage

for an examination of Keynes's emerging role as government advisor,

journalist, teacher, and economist. The seminar will study

his connections to the Bloomsbury Group as well as his non-economic writings,

both political and biographical. The emergent focus will be Keynes's

influential General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money,

its intellectual background, and its consequences.




Required reading will be the single volume (paperback) abridgement of the three volume biography of Keynes by Lord Robert Skidelsky titled John Maynard Keynes 1883-1946: Economist, Statesman, Philosopher.  There are additional readings from Keynes’s book Essays in Persuasion (paperback), which is also available at the Duke bookstore.


As is appropriate for a First Year Seminar, each class will be organized as a discussion about the weekly reading. Each class member will prepare a one to two page “response paper” each week to that week’s primary reading (in Skidelsky). Those papers will be the basis for the class discussion in each week’s class. As a final semester exercise, all students (who are roughly the ages of the (great-)grandchildren Keynes never had) will write a paper of 10-15 pages examining/assessing/appraising/responding to Keynes’s 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” (also contained in Essays in Persuasion), focusing primarily on the current economic difficulties and their relation to Keynes’s arguments.



Number n is "For the nth week ...". Required chapters for reading and discussion each week, in the Skidelsky biography, are noted in square brackets as [X-Y]. Essays or other material are noted in curly brackets as {X-Y}

1.      BBC video on Keynes, titled “Spend and Prosper” [1]

2.      Growing up [2-3]; {first three chapter of John Neville Keynes’s The Scope and Method of Political Economy}

3.      Eton and Cambridge [4-5]; {Eton}

4.      Cambridge Friends [6-8]; {Lytton Strachey’s “Florence Nightingale” in Eminent Victorians}

5.      From Cambridge to the Treasury via Bloomsbury [9-11]; {Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (Chapter 1)}

6.      Keynes in the War Government [12-14]; {The Arts -- Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, and Vanessa Bell; Bertrand Russell’s “Why Men Fight}

7.      The Peace Treaty [15-16]; {1.1-1.3}

8.      Keynes in the Post War period [17-20];{2.1,2.2}

9.      Monetary Reform, Gold, and the Liberal Party [21-24]; {3.1, 3.5}

10.  The Slump and the Treatise [25-27]; {2.4}

11.  The General Theory [28-30] {4.3,4.4}

12.   Keynes and World War II [31-35]

13.   Constructing the Post War World [36-40]

14.   A Life’s Conclusion [41-epilogue]

Note: I will try to hold to this schedule, but reserve the option to move topics around a bit as time and interests dictate.


It is not “ok” to miss class. This is a seminar, and engaged participation is very important.

Grades will be based on (1) weekly response papers: 45%; (2) participation in general class discussions: 35%; (3) final paper: 20%.

Last Revised November 3, 2010