Charles P. Kindleberger

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Charles Poor "Charlie" Kindleberger (October 12, 1910 – July 7, 2003) was a historical economist and author of over 30 books. His 1978 book Manias, Panics, and Crashes, about speculative stock market bubbles, was reprinted in 2000 after the dot-com bubble. He is well known for hegemonic stability theory.



Kindleberger was born in New York City on October 12, 1910. He graduated from Kent School in 1928, University of Pennsylvania in 1932, and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1937. He died on July 7, 2003 in Cambridge, MA. He was married to the late Sarah Miles Kindleberger for 59 years, and was survived by four children: Charles P. Kindleberger III of St. Louis, MO; Richard S. Kindleberger of Cambridge, MA (a reporter at the Boston Globe); Sarah Kindleberger of Lincoln, MA; and E. Randall Kindleberger of Machias, ME.[1] [2]


His earliest book was International Short-Term Capital Movements (1937).

Although mainly an academic at MIT after 1948, Kindleberger during the course of his life worked for several American institutions, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (1936–1939), the Bank of International Settlements in Switzerland (1939–1940), and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1940–1942).

Kindleberger was a leading architect of the Marshall Plan.[1] In 1945-1947 he served at the Department of State (Acting Director, Office of Economic Security Policy), and shortly (1947–1948) as counselor for the European Recovery Program.

As a 'historical' economist (or economic historian), Kindleberger relied on narrative exposition and knowledge of history rather than mathematical models to prove his point. His book, Manias, Panics, and Crashes is still required reading at many Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs in the United States.

Kindleberger described his around-the-clock work to develop and launch the Marshall Plan with singular passion in a 1973 interview.

'We were conscious of a great sense of excitement about the plan. Marshall himself was a great, great man—funny, odd but great—Olympian in his moral quality. We'd stay up all night, night after night. The first work ever done that I know about in economics on computers used the Pentagon's computers at night for the Marshall Plan. I had a tremendous sense of gratification from working so hard on it,' Kindleberger said.

Kindleberger was on familiar terms with noted economists and was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University (A.M., Ph. D.), later rising to the eminent position of Ford International Professor of Economics at MIT.

The World in Depression

His 1973 and 1986 book The World in Depression 1929-1939 (University of California Press, 1986 [Revised and Enlarged Edition]) advances an idiosyncratic, internationalist view of the causes and nature of the Great Depression. Blaming the peculiar length and depth of the Depression on the hesitancy of the US in taking over leadership of the world economy when Britain was no longer up to the role after WWI, he concludes that 'for the world economy to be stabilized, there has to be a stabilizer—one stabilizer', by which, in the context of the interwar years at least, he means the United States. In the last chapter 'An Explanation of the 1929 Depression' Kindleberger lists the five responsibilities the US would have had to assume in order to stabilize the world economy:

  1. maintaining a relatively open market for distress goods;
  2. providing countercyclical, or at least stable, long-term lending;
  3. policing a relatively stable system of exchange rates;
  4. ensuring the coordination of macroeconomic policies;
  5. acting as a lender of last resort by discounting or otherwise providing liquidity in a financial crisis.

Kindleberger was highly skeptical of Friedman and Schwartz's monetarist view of the causes of the Depression, seeing it as too narrow and perhaps dogmatic, and dismisses what he characterised as Samuelson's 'accidental' or 'fortuitous' interpretation out of hand. The World in Depression was praised by John Kenneth Galbraith as 'the best book on the subject'.



  1. ^ a b The Tech On-line edition, obituary, Volume 123, Issue 29, July 9, 2003
  2. ^, Opinion, July 17, 2003

Further reading

External links