rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 71
Sources: Booms and Busts: An Encyclopedia of Economic History from Tulipmania of the 1630s to the Global Financial Crisis of the 21st Century
R. Neil Scott

R. Neil Scott, Professor and User Services Librarian, James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University

Focusing on one niche of economic history—the economic cycle—this three-volume set will serve as a good resource to answer questions from high school, undergraduate and public library patrons regarding the who, what, when, where and how of economic “booms and busts.”

Coverage extends from the speculative behavior exhibited by the Dutch during the 17th-century “tulipmania” through the Great Recession of the late 2000s. While articles on the economies of the larger nations of the world are included, the primary focus is on the economic history of the United States during the closing decades of the twentieth century, including the housing and stock market boom of the mid-2000s and the financial meltdown and recession that followed.

The three introductory essays should be required reading: “Booms and Busts: Pre-Twentieth Century”; Booms and Busts: The Twentieth Century and Twenty-First Centuries”; and, “Booms and Busts: Causes and Consequences.” With 361 one-to-10 page entries in the “Topic Finder” under 16 broad headings—such as “Banks, Brokerage Houses, Financial Firms,” “Corporations and Corporate Affairs,” and “Economic Terms and Concepts,”—and three to 49 entries under each heading, the set covers this niche of economics from a variety of helpful perspectives.

There are numerous biographical entries, profiles of major banks and other financial institutions and helpful entries with detailed discussion of business-cycle theory. Narrative content is supported by an alphabetical and a topical table of contents, judicious placement of photographs and tables, and use of cross-references to other articles elsewhere in the set. There is also a variety of supplemental materials, including: a 153-item thumbnail-sketch historical chronology of significant events related to “booms and busts”; an 11-page glossary of words, acronyms, and theories used in the text; an extensive bibliography of books and websites; and an impressive, in-depth 59-page index to related names, terms, events, theories and concepts.

While the alphabetically arranged articles are written at varying levels of academic sophistication, readers will find them generally informative, concise and clearly written. Each is signed and the list of contributors with institutional affiliations appears near the front of Vol. 1. Entries are written by 96 different contributors: 51 American, 32 foreign, 10 self-identified as “independent scholars,” and 3 with a corporate affiliation. Unfortunately, because neither academic rank nor their degree is specified, it is not possible to determine whether contributors’ credentials include the PhD or in what field their terminal degree is in.

Most large university libraries will have two-to-three shelves of books on the topic of business cycle theory. However, because they are typically written for economists, most readers will find them packed with arcane statistical formulas, sophisticated mathematical analyses and numerous consumption, supply and demand curves, all to illustrate the various principles and theories proposed in the text. Few, if any, will offer the articulate, understandable narrative historical overview offered by this set. Indeed, it is likely that only the expensive new second edition of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (Palgrave Macmillan;2nd ed., 2008) and the widely held Business Cycles and Depressions: An Encyclopedia (Garland, 1997)—now nearly 15 years old—will offer any significant additional reference resource coverage.

The editor, Dr. James Ciment, brings many years of experience to this set. A prolific reference book producer whose firm (East River Books) provides publisher M.E. Sharpe with a steady stream of subject encyclopedias, he is commended for providing yet another excellent resource. Highly recommended for public and undergraduate collections of academic libraries.

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