Anna Jacobson Schwartz (1915-2012)

Anna Schwartz, who was made an Honorary Fellow of the IEA in 1997, was born in New York City on 11 November 1915. She died on 21 June 2012 at the age of 96 in New York City, where she had spent all her life. She had devoted her life to scholarship and was still active up to her last year when she completed her last book – on foreign exchange-rate intervention (forthcoming). She made many outstanding contributions to economics and history and at the same time she brought up a family of four, two girls and two boys.

Anna graduated from Barnard College, New York in 1934 with a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa; in 1936 an M.A. from Columbia University followed and in 1964 a PhD from Columbia. After a year in the US Department of Agriculture in 1936 she joined Walt Rostow and Arthur Gayer at Columbia’s Social Science Research Council on a major project on British economic history. Then in 1941 she joined the National Bureau of Economic Research and remained there for the rest of her life. Her first publication was in the Review of Economics and Statistics in 1940. A stream of publications followed. In 1973 she became a founder member of the Shadow Open Market Committee. In 1981-2 she was Staff Director of the US Gold Commission. From 1981 she was advisor to the monetary history project at the City University, London. Among many other distinctions she was a Wincott lecturer.

Anna’s immense contributions lay in three main areas: economic history and economic statistics; monetary economics; and international monetary issues. In all three areas she published large books that dominated the subject. In the first was the two-volume work The Growth and Fluctuation of the British Economy, 1790-1850, written with Gayer and Rostow. In the second area lies her best-known book the joint work with Milton Friedman, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, a truly monumental work of scholarship that change the economics profession’s understanding of the role of money in the economy. There were other volumes on monetary statistics and on comparative trends in the US and the UK. In the third area there were volumes on the gold standard 1821-1931, The International Transmission of Inflation, and the forthcoming book on intervention in the foreign exchange markets.

Anna had the distinction of having two festschrifts. At the first in 1987 Martin Feldstein, President of the National Bureau said: ‘Anna is a symbol of the NBER. The style of her work over many years at the NBER is something we aspire to but rarely achieve.’ Milton Friedman, her long-time collaborator, said: ‘Anna did all the work and I got a lot of the credit.’  … ‘I always knew that everything she did was going to be done right.’  And at the second festschrift in 1999 the organisers George Benston, Robert Eisenbeis and George Kaufman said: ‘Few persons have made more major contributions to financial and economic policy.’ These were just some of the many tributes.

Anna was a no-nonsense but delightful scholar and colleague whose work will last longer than most.

One of Anna Schwartz’s last works was ‘Origins of the financial market crisis of 2008’ in the IEA’s Verdict on the Crash.