If you’re studying economics at GCSE, A-level, or if you’re an economics undergraduate at university, there are lists upon lists of famous economists, economic works, as well as economic theories that you’re expected to understand.

In fact, some would say it's a common assumption that you should at least be aware of, if not very familiar with, a variety of economic policies, economic problems, and what top economists, from Keynes to David Ricardo, would think of such issues.

While having economics tuition from Superprof, can certainly help you learn about the key thinkers that have shaped the field of economics today, you can also supplement your study in a number of ways, for example, by:

  • Reading some of the greatest economic works written by renowned economists that cover topics such as prospect theory and the invisible hand;
  • Learning more about economics in the daily news; and
  • Finding out more about the thoughts and beliefs of past and present major economic thinkers.

With that in mind, we let you know below which economists, theories and works, are almost essential reading for students of economics.

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10 Most Famous Economists of All Time

You will have heard many of their names during your economics lessons, but the fact is that whilst there are many famous economists out there, there are a few that have shone in their field, such as:

  • John Maynard Keynes;
  • Milton Friedman; and
  • Adam Smith

Keynes and Friedman are almost required learning in any economics curriculum, largely because their opposing views form a crucial backdrop to economic policy that came to shape much of the 20th century.

Keynesianism argued in favour of market regulation and government spending in order to control the boom and bust cycle of economics and introduced concepts such as aggregate demand. Indeed, much of Keynes work formed the basis of macroeconomics today.

Friedman, on the other hand, was a fundamental believer in the free market and was therefore in opposition to Keynes. Although Friedman’s voice was perhaps not as strong in the 20th century, his ideas garnered a wide range of followers who believe in free-market capitalism.

The important thing to note is that economics as a subject is full of economists, from Hayek to Marx, who hold widely differing views to one another, whether that relates to conflict around:

  • Whether capitalism or socialism is a better economic model; or
  • Whether there should be more regulation in markets, or if a laissez-faire approach is better

Regardless of where you personally stand on such issues, it’s a great idea to read widely and understand what the key theories of major economic thinkers are, many of whom have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

That way, it will develop your analytical skills when looking at an economics problem, and will also give you a greater appreciation of how one school of economics can differ to another.

Equally, if you need any help fine-tuning your knowledge of figures such as Keynes, you could also hire a private tutor from Superprof to help you.

A collection of economics words. There are a lot of top economists that economics students should be familiar with.
You should familiarise yourself with examples of economic models, as it will help your economics studies. (Source: CC BY-SA 4.0, Debangana.mukherjee, Wikimedia Commons)

10 Most Famous Economics Books

There are a number of economics books out there, and as a result, there are plenty of books specialising in different niches. So if you would like to:

  • read a work about behavioural economics;
  • learn more about economic history; or
  • want to understand the key principles of macroeconomics

there is a book out there you can learn from.

For example, an excellent work that would complement any study into behavioural economics is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. A psychologist by trade, Kahneman outlines decades of his work, arguing that humans, far from being homo economicus, can actually act in quite irrational ways.

Equally, if you’d like to delve deeper into the past, and read a classic economics work, then you’d do well to read The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, which covers topics such as the free market, along with the division of labour.

If you take the time to read a wide range of works, across a number of economics niches, then not only will your appreciation for schools of economic thought increase, but you’ll also become immediately more familiar with key economists' theories and beliefs.

For example, whether or not you agree with his writings, you can understand a lot about what Karl Marx had to say about capitalism and his views on socialism in his works The Communist Manifesto and Capital. Often, it's much easier to understand a thinker's perspective and ideas once you read their own words about the issue, as opposed to reading a summary of their economic work.

Daniel Kahneman, one of the most famous economists around.
Daniel Kahneman is considered one of the top economists of our time, even though he's a psychologist! (Source: CC BY-SA 2.0, Buster Benson, Flickr)

10 Famous Examples of Economic Collapse

Whilst it’s important to know as much as possible about certain economists and their works, for example, Keynes, Hayek, Marx, or Friedman, it’s also worth taking some time to research what happens to global and local economies when there is an economic crash or another form of market failure.

Although there have been a number of crashes in recent times, with the 2008 financial crisis perhaps being the most frequently referenced, economic collapses are not a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries.

For example, there were a number of crashes and speculative bubbles in the 17th and 18th centuries, with some examples being:

  • The tulip mania in the Netherlands in the 17th century;
  • The Mississippi bubble of the 18th century; and
  • The French Revolution of 1789

If you spend some time researching these crashes, you may begin to see some parallels or patterns in why crashes happen, and how they can be resolved to return countries to economic growth.

However, if you're looking to focus your studies on one or two famous crashes, many would argue that one of the most famous economic collapses has to be the Great Depression, which was triggered by the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Sending the world into years of global recession, the crash has been well-documented and extensively discussed, so there is plenty of relevant, interesting material on the subject should you wish to find out more.

Of course, you could also reach out to a tutor at Superprof, who will be able to discuss major economic collapses with you in more detail, and provide you with interesting anecdotes and facts that you can quote in your next essay or exam.

Wall Street. The Great Depression is a famous example of global economic collapse.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was the beginning of the Great Depression. (Source: Public Domain, Sparkx 11, Wikimedia Commons)

10 Famous Economic Theories

Although you may learn about the key economists of all time, the best way to learn about such figures is to understand what their core economic theories were.

By reading up on the most common economic theories around, you’ll:

  • Help improve your understanding of major economic figures, such as Keynes, Friedman or Smith;
  • Gain more familiarity with different economic concepts, from laissez-faire economics to game theory; and
  • Understand what schools of thought economists belong to.

There are economic models and economic concepts that have been around for hundreds of years, with classical economics, which was spearheaded by figures such as Adam Smith, being one such example. However, other equally compelling and long-standing theories have appeared, such as:

  • Keynesian economics;
  • Milton Friedman and the theory of monetarism, which is closely associated with him; and
  • Marxism, and in particular, Karl Marx's criticism of capitalist economies.

Additionally, newer economic concepts have also gained traction in the past few decades. For example, game theory and prospect theory are both still relatively new economic theories. Prospect theory, in particular, has done much to develop our understanding of the field of behavioural economics and challenges the idea that human beings always made rational economic decisions.

Although not every economic theory will necessarily agree with another – Keynes and Friedman being two very famous examples of economists whose theories’ clashed at times – it’s important to read about different, and contradicting economic theories.

This will not only help improve your skills in economic analysis, but it will also develop your understanding of the field of economics as a whole, and what issues economists of today are concerned with, whether that's:

  • inflation;
  • unemployment; or
  • monetary policy.

Ultimately, if you are able to focus your studies by researching the most famous examples of economic theory, you'll set yourself in good stead for your exams.

Equally, if you need any help at all preparing for an upcoming exam or essay, or if you’re struggling to find out more about a particular economist, such as Stiglitz, then you can also turn to tutoring sites such as Superprof for help.

There is a range of economics tutors at Superprof, who offer both online and in-person tutoring sessions, so you can definitely find a tutor with the expertise and availability to suit you.

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