Geoff Harcourt interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 15th May 2007

0:05:08 Born 1931 in Melbourne, Australia into agnostic, right-wing Jewish family; twin brother now an academic dentist; elder sister died young; mother from wealthy background with upper-middle class attitudes, snobby and prejudiced; father from family of shopkeepers who came variously from Germany, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania and England; mother headmistress of infant school of Merton Hall; father was an orthodox Jew until about twenty, a man of high principles; a leather merchant; much loved and a great influence on life; parents aware of rising antisemitism and encouraged sons to attend Church of England; hopeless attempt at deception with so many Jewish cousins; assimilated Jews in Melbourne were not Zionist but the working class, left-wing Jews were

7:50:20 Went to private school as day-boy; brought up very right-wing politically and agnostic, but interested in both politics and religion; went to Wesley College with brother who was clever so in class with students a year and a half older; difficult for both; wanted to be a vet but pretty hopeless at sciences; found I liked economics; keen on sport which protected you as a Jew; wrote an account of antisemitism in my school which was published in 1960 under a pseudonym; enrolled for bachelor of commerce degree at Melbourne in 1950 as no foreign language was required; got teacher's grant; did well; acquired a wonderful mentor called Joe Isaac one of the lecturers who suggested I should be a university teacher rather than school teacher; joined Queen's College which was life-transforming and got an Exhibition in 1951 which paid fees; got equal top first in 1953; took full part in college life; became a socialist as a result of lectures on economic geography; some of my best friends were training to be Methodist ministers and discussion with them convinced me to be baptized as a Methodist in my last year; now worship in term time in Jesus Chapel

16:16:11 Graduated in 1953 and despite doubts of Jean Polglaze who ran the faculty, got a first; went on to do a masters degree by coursework with Richard Downing, Ritchie professor; had difficulties with Downing who could be very sarcastic but finally passed; because of undergraduate success had got a traveling scholarship and admitted to King's (Cambridge); Kaldor made my PhD supervisor; Joan and I got married before leaving Australia on a five week ship journey; had met Ronald Henderson in Melbourne, now at Corpus Christi, he asked me to do some supervisions ; rough reception by Kaldor when I asked for permission to do supervisions as Henderson was part of the Dennis Robertson faction which Kaldor, as a Keynesian, hated; wanted to work on implications of firms in oligarpolistic structures and the implications for macro economics, particularly Keynes's system which I had written on in my undergraduate dissertation; asked to give a paper at Sraffa's seminar by Robin Marris; first introduction to Joan Robinson there; Melbourne economics was very Cambridge orientated so I was well read in Robinson, Kahn, Keynes, Marshall, Maurice Dobb; Melbourne graduates usually went on to Cambridge;

25:55:10 Problems with Kaldor caused depression but luckily Kaldor went away and transferred to Ron Henderson; sent to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research where they were setting up balance sheets and fund statements for the whole British quoted company sector to write a couple of reports to see if they were of any value; Henderson saved me although I did end up good friends with Kaldor though not for the first ten years of our acquaintance; Joan Robinson published 'Accumulation of Capital' in 1956 aged 52, same age that Keynes was when he published magnum opus; Keynes had left his opera cloak to Richard Kahn and he and Joan Robinson used to take it in turns to wear if for grand occasions; rivalry between Robinson and Kaldor as Austin Robinson's successor for the Chair; gave two papers at the graduate seminar on 'Accumulation of Capital' then Robinson came to answer questions; among the graduate students then were Sen, Pasinetti, Silberston and Hugh Hudson who was by common consent the brightest of us all, who was 'adopted' by Robinson and Kahn, and won the Stephenson Prize; think 'Accumulation of Capital' was a great book and tragedy that it was not taken more seriously; Tom Asimakopoulos, a contemporary of mine, realized how important it was and did a mathematical model of the book which I published in Adelaide, which Joan Robinson accepted and they became firm friends; I was much influenced by her model which I used in my dissertation and has been part of my thinking ever since

39:36:07 By the beginning of 1958 I had run out of money; got a research assistant's job in Adelaide but due to expansion of Australian universities through the Murray Commission heard on the boat home that I'd been made a lecturer; next six years were wonderful; colleagues included Eric Russell, my mentor, who published very little but what he did publish was like gold; extraordinarily young department and with my friend Bob Wallace we recruited some of the best young people who had been overseas; taught on Joan Robinson and Nicky Kaldor; wrote critique of  Kaldor's work which was rejected for publication by 'Review of Economic Studies' but published in 'Australian Economic Papers' just before coming back to Cambridge for a year's study leave in 1963; when I arrived made a fuss of by Robinson and Kahn, then I heard a rumour that I was to get a lectureship; agreed to take it for three years by taking leave from Adelaide where I had obligations to return;invited to join the secret seminar in King's with Robinson and Kahn etc.; was there when Ken Arrow read his paper on uncertainty in the economics of medical care; Bob Solow also in Cambridge at that time; Trinity Hall appointed me as teaching fellow in economics

50:02:00 Had the most marvellous three years and didn't want to leave but felt moral obligation to Adelaide; during that time Bob Solow gave the best Marshall lectures I've ever heard and he and Arrow became friends; Robinson invited Solow to her class to debate with her but didn't really let him defend his views which deeply upset him; Solow thought that she was a zealot and the Cambridge tripos only improved through the effort of Frank Hahn; Hahn with Kaldor and Robert Neild led a very courageous fight against the monetarists in the 1980's; the 1960's was such a vibrant time with the Department of Applied Economics under Reddaway and Richard Stone had been given a Chair; many economists were associated with King's through Keynes - King's was the Mecca for economists; reflections on antisemitism at Jesus College

55:29:12 Went back to Australia in 1967; I had been made a Reader at Cambridge and through Eric Russell I was put up for a personal Chair and elected in September 1967; determined to get involved in the anti-war movement as appalled by what was happening in Vietnam; had been instructed by Ajit Singh and Martin Bernal in Cambridge; there had been a huge row in the faculty as Solow was 110% hawk, Arrow was a dove; interesting as both sons of immigrants and these are usually patriots, but Ken thought it an immoral war; people like Hahn and even Meade were inclined to be hawks, partly because Robinson was a raving dove; anecdote on her letter to Harold Wilson and his written explanation by return of post; brawls too about capital theory debates; missed Solow leading discussion on the Hahn - Matthews survey of economic growth, due to mumps; day before Kaldor had come back from Australia and asked me to read my paper on a critique of his theory of economic growth to his King's research student's seminar; luckily Luigi Pasinetti came as well as Kaldor behaved disgracefully; every time I got him on a weak point he would change the argument or scream at me; Robinson wanted to know how it had gone as she thought I had nailed the weakness in his argument about full employment