Skip to main content
Main Content

From the Department of Economics webpage:

"The tools of economic analysis can lead to powerful insights in numerous real world applications. The diversity of the research studies authored by Economics Department faculty members helps illustrate the many ways economic analysis can be used. Whether studying the effects of the "three-strikes law" on criminal behavior, examining how star athletes affect NBA gate revenues, or evaluating the effect of U.S. agriculture policies on developing countries, researchers in the field of economics can make valuable contributions to our knowledge of the world around us."

William & Mary claims among its priorities to have been the first college in the nation to teach political economy. This development was an outgrowth of a reorganization of the College in 1779 instigated by Thomas Jefferson, who as Governor was appointed to the Board of Visitors of the College. The reorganization entailed a secularization of the curriculum.

"When Jefferson instituted the reorganization of the College, James Madison was its president and occupied the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy. In 1784 Madison gave up the mathematics title and assumed the chair of moral philosophy. Bishop Madison may have been the first teacher of political economy in America. He is known to have been lecturing on Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations by the end of the century, and it has been presumed that these lectures commenced in 1784.

"The high point of political economy at the antebellum College came with the appointment of Thomas Roderick Dew as Professor of Political Law in 1826. Dew was born in 1802 and attended William & Mary from 1818-20. While at the College he studied political economy under John Augustine Smith. Following an extended European tour he returned to the College, taking a masters degree in 1824. In 1826 he received a faculty appointment. Refusing an offer from South Carolina College in 1834 to succeed Thomas Cooper, Dew was appointed President of William & Mary in 1836.

"In 1877 the College advertised for a Professor of Belles Letters, Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Political Economy. Lyon G. Tyler held the position for one year, after which it remained vacant. The College closed its doors in 1881. It reopened with the help of a state subsidy for training male public school teachers in 1888, when Tyler was named President and Professor of Moral Science, Political Economy, and Civil Government. For the next fifteen years political economy was taught to seniors as part of a course that included ethics and logic. The texts were Perry's Political Economy and Dew's Restrictive System.

"By 1905 there was a Department of Economics and Political Science, in which there was a single course in economics. Until 1919 there continued to be a single course in economics at a time when many other schools were offering a wide variety of courses. The 1920s were years of expansion under the presidency of J.A.C. Chandler. The School of Economics and Business Administration was created in 1919 and the number of course offerings in economics expanded. By the end of the decade there were five faculty members who covered topics in economics. In 1968 the Department of Business Administration became a school, and economics at William & Mary attained its current form, a department within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, offering an undergraduate degree in economics." (Haulman and Hausman)

In 2001, the department ranked among the nation's elite.


  • Albion Guilford Taylor, "Economics at the College of William & Mary," Alumni Gazette, 6.2 (1938):11-13, 20. University Archives Subject File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, William & Mary.
  • Economics, University Archives Subject File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, William & Mary.

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


Want to find out more?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for other resources to help you find materials of interest.

Questions? Have ideas or updates for articles you'd like to see? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at or 757-221-3090.

A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.