Interdisciplinary research is the key to addressing the challenges of our current moment.

Climate change, global development, pandemics and so on are infuriatingly complex, and rarely respect disciplinary boundaries. Interdisciplinary research integrates the insights of, and communicates between, larger groups, and is seen as the source of innovation and scientific breakthroughs, job-ready graduates and flexible real-world research.

Despite widespread rhetoric in favour of interdisciplinarity, universities continue to reinforce the dominance of disciplines – everyone wants interdisciplinary research, but very few understand how to actively encourage it.

Economic history is one of the world’s oldest interdisciplinary fields. It has flourished in the empty spaces between the disciplines of economics and history, with its fortunes dependent on its ability to connect and prove relevant to these larger groups.

This book is the first history of an interdisciplinary field in the Australian context, and the first account of Australian economic history that embeds the field’s progress with an understanding of interdisciplinarity and the practice and policy of the higher education sector.

Through detailed analysis of texts, networks, ideas, and life histories, it examines the field’s key research themes, approaches, and interpretations. It highlights the lived experience of doing interdisciplinary research; the way scholars have connected with each other; and how they have navigated the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinarity in Australian universities.

The lessons from this field’s history are vital for scholars, universities and policymakers seeking to develop robust interdisciplinary conversations now and in the future.


‘Deftly positioning economic history in an innovative institutional, place-based and person-focused narrative, Claire Wright entangles economics with the history of education to produce a tale of university interdisciplinarity, influence and impact. Written with vitality and bursting with both data and anecdote, this book makes an exceptional contribution to the intersecting fields of history, economics and higher education studies.’

– Hannah Forsyth, author of A History of the Modern Australian University

‘Claire Wright traces the field from legendary beginnings to triumphant growth to organizational collapse – and renaissance on other terms. Carefully researched and vigorously written, this book raises questions about disciplines and interdisciplinary fields, universities and markets, and social bases of intellectual work, that are relevant to all fields today.’

– Raewyn Connell, author of The Good University

‘Claire Wright is tough-minded about financial and institutional pressures, but cautiously optimistic about the future. With close attention to individual scholars and their university departments, and a deep sense of the trajectory of the field, Australian Economic History is an original and important contribution to Australian intellectual history.’

– Glyn Davis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the Crawford School of Public Policy


Andrew Seltzer (Royal Holloway) for the Asia-Pacific Economic History Review

“I am deeply grateful to Wright for writing this book. I have been involved with Australian Economic history since 1993 and there is much in the book that is new to me. The book also provides a much broader picture of the discipline than anything I have read to date. Without her initiative in interviewing the elder statesmen of the discipline, much of their knowledge would have been lost to posterity. Thus, this book should be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the discipline…” – AEHR, 63(1), 2023. 

Gary B. Magee (Monash University) for Australian Historical Studies

“This is an important book. It presents a vision for economic history that is both appealing and timely. Economists, historians, and academia more generally have much to gain from interacting with a viable economic history. With any hope, this book will catalyse fruitful discussions within universities and among policy-makers.” – AHS, 53(4), 2022.



ARC DECRA Fellow at UTS Business School


I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. In particular, I acknowledge that I live and work on the unceded lands of the Dharawal and Gadigal people. This always was, and always will be Aboriginal land. I pay my respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples today.

All thoughts and opinions posted on this website are my own, and not reflective of the institutions I may represent.

Copyright 2022 Claire E. F. Wright