Earl Jefferson Hamilton
(Houlka, Mississippi, 1899 - Oak Ridge, Tennessee 1989)
Professor of Economics and Economic History at USA universities and outstanding Hispanist.
Earl J. Hamilton was born in Houlka, Mississippi, in 1899. In 1920 he graduated with honors from the University of Mississippi and received an MA from the University of Texas in 1924. Married to Gladys Olive Dallas, Hamilton and his wife decided to study History at Harvard University, attending lectures from Allyn Young from 1924 to 1926. Hamilton obtained the doctorate degree from this prestigious university in 1929.
As a professor of economics, he taught at Duke University (1927-44), Northwestern (1944-47) and Chicago (1947-67), and after retiring, he became Distinguished Visiting Professor (Emeritus) of Economic History of the State New York University, Binghamton in 1966-69. Among other positions, he served as editor of the renowned Journal of Political Economy (1948-1954). Member of the editorial board of the Journal of Modern History and Journal of Economic History. In 1940-41 he was one of the founders of the Economic History Association, and its President in 1950-1952. Vice president of the American Economic Association in 1955, and member for life of the Royal Economic Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received honorary degrees from the Universities of Paris (1952), Duke (1966) and Madrid (1967).
Hamilton has been considered one of the founders of quantitative economic history, having made an early and large production on prices and wages in the late medieval and modern periods. Along with other well-known Hispanic Americans, as Klein, Hussey and Usher - Edwin Gay´s scholars-he exercised considerable influence among economic historians since the early 1930s, especially interested in the study of the imperial era. His first publication was an article published in 1928, "American Treasure and Andalusian Prices, 1503-1660: a study of the Spanish Price Revolution", that originated the modern debate on the benefits and inflation prices in Europe. One year later, he published "American Treasure and the Rise of Capitalism, 1500 - 1700" in the Economica journal (November 9, 1929), which became the preliminary of his first book entitled The American Treasure and the Price.
Revolution in Spain 1501-1650, Harvard Economic Studies, 43. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1934. Two years later: Money, Prices and Wages in Valencia, Aragon and Navarre, 1351- 1500, Cambridge, Mass., 1936. And a decade later, War and Prices in Spain, 1651-1800, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1947. In those decades, he mainly focused on the reconstruction of the history of prices in Spain during the ancient regime, concluding that the sixteenth century represented a revolution in prices caused by the arrival of consignments of precious metals -specially silver- from the Spanish colonies in America, what in turn led to an inflation detrimental to the productive economy of the Hispanic Monarchy, especially of the Crown of Castile. The seventeenth century marked a decline in the arrival of precious metals, and hence a depressive phase (seventeenth century crisis), also aggravated by fiscal policy and repeated currency devaluations. Influenced by the economic theories of Irving Fisher and John M. Keynes, E.J. Hamilton applied the theory that established a direct relationship between currency increase and rising prices. It has been noted the coincidence of Hamilton's investigations and interpretations with the Keynesian paradigm, that, at the same time, was applied to the economic problems of the interwar period and to the policies aiming to overcome the 1929 crisis.
He also investigated in the history of the Bank of Spain, the Scottish financier John Law, and the Mississippi Bubble in France, although he only published a few articles about them before his death. He died in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 1989.