Sophus A. Reinert

Marvin Bower Associate Professor

Sophus Reinert is an associate professor of business administration in the Business, Government, and the International Economy Unit, where he teaches a course on Globalization and Emerging Markets (GEM) in the MBA elective curriculum. Before joining HBS, he was a research fellow and an affiliated lecturer in history at Gonville & Caius College at the University of Cambridge (UK).

Professor Reinert studies the history of capitalism and political economy since the Renaissance, focusing particularly on the historical role played by governments in both economic development and decline. He is the author of Translating Empire: Emulation and the Origins of Political Economy, published by Harvard University Press in 2011 and winner of the 2012 Spengler Prize, the 2012 EAEPE-Myrdal Prize, as well as the 2012 George L. Mosse Prize of the American Historical Association. He edited and wrote the introduction to A “Short Treatise” on the Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1613), by Antonio Serra (London and New Delhi: Anthem); and he is the series editor of Economic Ideas that Built Europe, also with Anthem.

Professor Reinert earned his Ph.D. in history at the University for Cambridge, together with an M.Phil. in political thought and intellectual history. As an undergraduate, he studied history at Cornell University. He has been a Carl Schurz Fellow at the Krupp Chair in Public Finance and Fiscal Sociology at the University of Erfurt, Germany, and a fellow of the Einaudi Foundation in Turin, Italy.

Books

  1. Antonio Serra and the Economics of Good Government

    Rosario Patalano and Sophus A. Reinert

    Little is known of Antonio Serra except that he wrote his extraordinary 1613 Short Treatise on the Causes That Make Kingdoms Abound in Gold and Silver even in the Absence of Mines in a Neapolitan jail and that he died there soon afterwards. However, the influence of this work represents a watershed not only in the discipline of economics but also in the history of social science and intellectual history more generally.

    In this book, some of the world's leading economists and experts on Serra explore the enduring appeal of his Short Treatise. The authors analyse the work in its historical, economic, cultural, and intellectual contexts, exploring the finer details of his theories regarding economic development and international financial interactions, as well as his indebtedness to earlier Renaissance traditions.

    The book also uncovers new material relating to Serra's life and provides in-depth interpretation of his key insights, influences, and political economy. This book highlights the parallels between issues discussed by Serra and modern political and scholarly consciousness and illustrates the importance and influences of historical debate in modern economic thinking.

    Keywords: History; Books; Government and Politics; Economics;

    Citation:

    Patalano, Rosario and Sophus A. Reinert, eds. Antonio Serra and the Economics of Good Government. Palgrave Studies in the History of Finance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. View Details
  2. The Political Economy of Empire in the Early Modern World

    Sophus A. Reinert and Pernille Røge

    This volume recasts our understanding of the practical and theoretical foundations and dynamic experiences of early modern imperialism. The imperial encounter with political economy was neither uniform across political, economic, cultural, and religious constellations nor static across time. The contributions collected in this volume address, with undeniable pertinence for the struggles of later periods, the moral and military ambiguity of profits and power, as well as the often-jealous interactions between different solutions to the problem of empire. The book presents a powerful mosaic of imperial theories and practices contributing to the creation of the modern world and to the most pressing concerns of our time.

    Keywords: political economy; early modern imperialism; Economy; Government and Politics;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A. and Pernille Røge, eds. The Political Economy of Empire in the Early Modern World. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. View Details
  3. Translating Empire: Emulation and the Origins of Political Economy

    Sophus A. Reinert

    Historians have traditionally used the discourses of free trade and laissez-faire to explain the development of political economy during the Enlightenment. But from Sophus Reinert's perspective, eighteenth-century political economy can be understood only in the context of the often brutal imperial rivalries then unfolding in Europe and its former colonies and the positive consequences of active economic policy. The idea of economic emulation was the prism through which philosophers, ministers, reformers, and even merchants thought about economics, as well as industrial policy and reform, in the early modern period. With the rise of the British Empire, European powers and others sought to selectively emulate the British model.

    In mapping the general history of economic translations between 1500 and 1849, and particularly tracing the successive translations of the Bristol merchant John Cary's seminal 1695 Essay on the State of England, Reinert makes a compelling case for the way that England's aggressively nationalist policies, especially extensive tariffs and other intrusive market interventions, were adopted in France, Italy, Germany, and Scandinavia before providing the blueprint for independence in the New World. Relatively forgotten today, Cary's work served as the basis for an international move toward using political economy as the prime tool of policymaking and industrial expansion.

    Reinert's work challenges previous narratives about the origins of political economy and invites the current generation of economists to reexamine the foundations, and future, of their discipline.

    Keywords: Business History; Government and Politics;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A. Translating Empire: Emulation and the Origins of Political Economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. (Received the 2012 Joseph J. Spengler Prize for the best book in the history of economics.) View Details

Journal Articles

  1. The Economy of Fear: H.P. Lovecraft on Eugenics, Economics and the Great Depression

    Sophus A. Reinert

    The early twentieth-century weird writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft is today best remembered for his genre defining style of academic noir pulp fiction. Yet in focusing on certain tropes of his work, such as the many memorable monsters he created to populate his stories, from the infinite effervescence named Yog-Sothoth to the dreaded cephalopod Cthulhu, scholars have overlooked a deeper terror structuring practically all of his writings, the chillingly resonant fear that, amidst the chaos of globalization, miscegenation, and economic decline, 'Anglo-Saxon' civilization would surrender to lesser races. Fundamental to this fear was his understanding of atavism—of evolutionary throwbacks, survivals and regressions—in modern industrial society, and his extraordinary stories were only one expression of a contemporary culture involving eugenicists, political economists, and prominent authors of the Gothic and 'weird' traditions between the 1890s and the 1930s. Lovecraft himself in effect penned a number of economic manuscripts on the crisis of the Great Depression, and this article contextualizes his ideas in relation to his wider writings as well as to contemporary traditions of economics and eugenics, drawing a new picture of one of the greatest horror writers of all time.

    Keywords: H.P. Lovecraft; Society; Economics;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A. "The Economy of Fear: H.P. Lovecraft on Eugenics, Economics and the Great Depression." Horror Studies 6, no. 2 (October 2015): 255–282. View Details

Book Chapters

  1. Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism, and Political Economy in the Accademia dei Pugni in Austrian Lombardy, 1760–1780

    Sophus A. Reinert and Jani Marjanen

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A., and Jani Marjanen. "Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism, and Political Economy in the Accademia dei Pugni in Austrian Lombardy, 1760–1780." Chap. 6 in The Rise of Economic Societies in the Eighteenth Century: Patriotic Refom in Europe and North America, edited by Koen Stapelbroek and Jani Marjanen, 130–156. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. View Details
  2. Rivalry: Greatness in Early Modern Political Economy

    Sophus A. Reinert

    Keywords: political economy; mercantilism; early modern Britain; Economic Systems; Government and Politics; Great Britain;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A. "Rivalry: Greatness in Early Modern Political Economy." In Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire, edited by Philip J. Stern and Carl Wennerlind, 348–370. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. View Details
  3. The Sultan's Republic: Jealousy of Trade and Oriental Despotism in Paolo Mattia Doria

    Sophus A. Reinert

    Keywords: History; Trade; Government and Politics;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A. "The Sultan's Republic: Jealousy of Trade and Oriental Despotism in Paolo Mattia Doria." In Enlightened Reform in Southern Europe and its Atlantic Colonies, edited by Gabriel Paquette, 253–269. Ashgate Publishing, 2009. View Details

Working Papers

  1. Mapping the Economic Grand Tour: Travel and International Emulation in Enlightenment Europe

    Sophus A. Reinert

    As the itinerant wizard (technically one of the Maiar, if not the Istari) Gandalf wrote to the then domestically-inclined hobbit Frodo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Indeed, as the recent brouhaha over the “wanderlust gene” DRD4-7R testifies to, travel is a constant of human experience, inflected in myriad ways by history, literature, and life, from the Homeric epics and the Jungian archetype of “the wanderer” to Tripadvisor.com and Ibiza stag parties. People have traveled to learn, to conquer, to evangelize, in search of architectural inspiration and for reasons of health, not to mention because other places were “there,” in Edmund Hillary’s famous formulation, but within this spacious swath of human history my interest lies with a particular kind of purposeful travel that I would define as “economic,” by which I do not mean frugal or “low cost,” but pursued to improve the management of the material world—theoretically or practically, individually or collectively; more the Jesuit François Xavier d’Entrecolles discovering the secrets of Chinese porcelain in 1712 than, say, Ryanair.

    Keywords: Behavior; Globalization;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A. "Mapping the Economic Grand Tour: Travel and International Emulation in Enlightenment Europe." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-005, July 2016. View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Bhutan: Governing for Happiness

    Sophus A. Reinert, Thomas Humphrey and Benjamin Safran

    Unique among the world’s countries, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan had abandoned the traditional policy goal of increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in favor of pursuing Gross National Happiness (GNH). Famously, Bhutan ranked highly on lists of the happiest countries in spite of a tumultuous history, low life expectancy, a dismal literacy rate, a small and undiversified economy, and low GDP per capita. Everyone, it seemed, from tourists and Hollywood screenwriters to leading development economists, looked to Bhutan for enlightenment and perspective on crises both personal and global. GNH had become the country’s brand and suggested a possible future for capitalism. Was Bhutan on to something? Was there really a tradeoff between growth and happiness, and, if so, was it acceptable? In early 2014, Bhutan’s newly minted Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay was faced with these questions as he deliberated on whether to approve a massive new Bhutanese-Indian hydropower collaboration that experts argued would provide energy, foreign exchange, and invaluable jobs, but which also risked undermining the country’s brand as well as its happiness.

    Keywords: Bhutan;

    Citation:

    Reinert, Sophus A., Thomas Humphrey, and Benjamin Safran. "Bhutan: Governing for Happiness." Harvard Business School Case 715-024, December 2014. (Revised March 2015.) View Details