Banking Crises in Three Countries: An Historical and Comparative Perspective

Dec 10, 2009

Helmut Schmidt Prize Lecture at the GHI | Speaker: Richard Tilly

The 2009 Helmut Schmidt Prize for German-American Economic History was awarded to Richard H. Tilly at an award ceremony at the German Historical Institute on December 10, 2009. After introductory remarks by Hartmut Berghoff (GHI Director) and Matthias Sonn (Head, Economics and Science Dept., German Embassy), Volker Berghahn (Columbia University) delivered the laudatio. Tilly then delivered a lecture on "Banking Crises in Three Countries: An Historical and Comparative Perspective," which will be published in the Spring 2010 issue of the Bulletin of the GHI.

The Schmidt prize is awarded every two years by the German Historical Institute in Washington DC and the Zeit Foundation Gerd and Ebelin Bucerius. Previous laureates include Harold James (Princeton University) and Volker Berghahn (Columbia University).

Born to a family of German descent in Chicago on October 17, 1932, Richard Tilly studied history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. From 1955 to 1957, he completed his military service largely in Germany, where he learned the language of his grandfather and, in 1960, married his wife Elisabeth, of Würzburg. After working for an insurance company, Tilly continued his studies, earning his Ph.D. in economics in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, after two years of intensive research in Germany. After holding positions in Ann Arbor and Yale, he was appointed as director of the newly founded Institute for Economic and Social History of the University of Münster in 1966, which he directed until his retirement in 1997.

Tilly was an important advocate of the "New Economic History" developed in the late 1950s, which pursues economic history using economic theories and quantitative methods. Despite considerable resistance, Tilly paved the way for cliometrics in Germany. His research shaped an academic school-his students have occupied no fewer than seven professorships in Germany.

Tilly's research focuses primarily on the themes of growth, financial institutions, and businesses; in addition, he made important contributions to various historical fields, including social and regional history, as well as the history of business cycles. Of his eight books, his classics Financial Institutions and Industrialization in the Rhineland, 1815-1870 (1966) and Kapital, Staat und sozialer Protest in der deutschen Industrialisierung (1980) deserve special mention. His concise historical overview of Germany's economic and social development Vom Zollverein zum Industriestaat: Die wirtschaftlich-soziale Entwicklung Deutschlands 1834 bis 1934 (1990) achieved great importance as a teaching text. His most recent publication is Willy H. Schlieker: Aufstieg und Fall eines Unternehmers (1914-1980) (2008), the biography of a central figure of the postwar period of Germany's economic miracle.