Historians of economics have paid minimal attention to the diffusion of economic ideas in the textbook literature. Given the low esteem in which textbooks are held as embodiments of scholarship and the propensity of historians of economics - and intellectual historians generally - to focus on the production of scholarship through more lofty venues such as journal articles and scholarly books, this lack of attention to the textbook literature is in some ways understandable. This article argues that the textbook literature constitutes an incredibly rich data source for the historian of economics. In doing so, it offers illustrations from the treatment of the Coase theorem in the textbooks, with a view both to showing how the textbook literature enhances our understanding of the diffusion of economic ideas and how attempts by authors to grapple with new ideas in the context of the textbook literature can result in divergences between how these ideas are treated in the scholarly and textbook literatures.
Keywords: Textbooks, Coase theorem, historiography, education, diffusion
Jel Code: B0