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Comparative Advantage in International Trade

A Historical Perspective Andrea Maneschi, Professor of Economics, Vanderbilt University, US
This comprehensive book outlines the theories of trade and the interpretations of comparative advantage associated with, among others, the Mercantilists, Smith, Ricardo, Torrens, Longfield, Mill, Marshall, Pareto, Haberler, Heckscher, Ohlin and Samuelson, as well as present day trade theorists. A chapter is devoted to Hamilton, Rae and List, who interpreted comparative advantage dynamically by advocating its creation.
Extent: 272 pp
Hardback Price: £87.00 Web: £78.30
Publication Date: 1998
ISBN: 978 1 85898 300 4
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Economic History
  • History of Economic Thought
The book analyzes the evolution of the concept of comparative advantage from the eighteenth century to the present day. It examines the origins of the concept of comparative advantage, its current status within economic thought and its validity in today’s global economy.

This comprehensive book outlines the theories of trade and the interpretations of comparative advantage associated with, among others, the Mercantilists, Smith, Ricardo, Torrens, Longfield, Mill, Marshall, Pareto, Haberler, Heckscher, Ohlin and Samuelson, as well as present day trade theorists. A chapter is devoted to Hamilton, Rae and List, who interpreted comparative advantage dynamically by advocating its creation.

The book breaks new ground by reinterpreting the theories of trade associated with prominent economists such as Ricardo, and drawing attention to valuable but lesser known contributions. It considers the new trade theory from the past two decades as a legitimate successor to the dynamic views of comparative advantage of the classical economists.

This book will be required reading for students and academics with an interest in the history of economic thought and the economics (or theory) of international trade.
‘Maneschi’s clearly and attractively written book traces the evolution of comparative advantage based theorizing in relation to international trade. . . . a fine book, combining many fascinating details with a clear overall argument. There are ample notes, a bibliography, and an index; the volume is well-produced. It will prove to be rewarding for many readers.’
– Ian Steedman, Journal of Economics/Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie

‘Historians of international trade and trade theory, intellectual historians, and students of trade theory will all benefit from Andrea Maneschi’s masterful work, which takes the reader through a considerable
amount of the primary literature and presents technical models of international trade with great clarity.’
– Sandra Peart, The International History Review

‘Andrea Maneschi has been the leading intellectual authority on the history of international trade theory for many years. This book further crystallises his reputation. Comparative Advantage and International Trade is a remarkable book for its clarity, scope, and authoritative style. It is immediately apparent to the reader that Maneschi is fully versed in modern and historical trade theory. The story of development and criticism of comparative advantage is woven into an intriguing and complete statement that begins with the ancient Greeks and ends with the linkage between comparative advantage and the new trade theory. . . . It will be a standard reference for quite some time.’
– Bruce T. Elmslie, Southern Economic Journal

‘Although the book is appealing to international economists as well as historians of economic ideas, economists in other fields have much more to learn from it. The book can serve as a wonderful supplementary reading in graduate seminars as well as in graduate courses in international trade and history of economic thoughts.’
– Farhad Rassekh, Kyklos

‘Paul Samuelson was once asked by a hostile journalist to give a single example of an idea in economics that was not just common sense dressed up in fancy language. Quick as a flash he replied: “the Theory of comparative advantage; not only is it uncommon sense, it is even counter-intuitive; and yet it captures a profound and significant insight”. How true! In this magnificent readable and yet scholarly contribution, Andrea Maneschi traces the story of comparative advantage from the Mercantilists through Ricardo to the Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson trade models of the inter-war period and beyond to the recent revival of Ricardo’s doctrine in dynamic dress.’
– The late Mark Blaug, formerly of the University of London and University of Buckingham, UK

‘Andrea Maneschi’s book combines meticulous scholarship in the history of doctrine with a high degree of analytic rigour and skill in tracing the evolution of the theory of comparative advantage from its primitive beginnings through David Ricardo and down to the present day. Any graduate course in trade theory would be enhanced with this book on the reading list to acquaint the students with the sources of the most fundamental idea in all of economics.’
– Ronald Findlay, Columbia University, US

‘This is a major contribution to the history of economic thought, a successor to Viner’s great Studies in the Theory of International Trade. Maneschi delves deeply into the writings of numerous authors, beginning with the ancient Greeks and ending with the “new trade theorists”. The analysis is both profound and convincing.’
– W. Max Corden, Johns Hopkins University, US
Contents: 1. Introduction 2. The Concept of Comparative Advantage 3. Theories of International Trade up to Adam Smith 4. David Ricardo, Robert Torrens and the Discovery of Comparative Advantage 5. Creators of Comparative Advantage: Alexander Hamilton, John Rae and Friedrich List 6. John Stuart Mill: Comparative Advantage and the Terms of Trade 7. Neoclassical Trade Theory: Alfred Marshall, Vilfredo Pareto and Enrico Barone 8. Neoclassical Trade Theory: Gottfried Haberler, Eli Heckscher and Bertil Ohlin 9. The Heckscher–Ohlin Theory Encounters the New Trade Theory 10. The (Almost) General Validity of Comparative Advantage Index