Economics in Context

The Howard Marks Professor of Economic History is changing our understanding of finance.

Monday, October 30, 2017

By Susan Ahlborn 

Marc Flandreau, Howard Marks Professor of Economic History (Credit: Greg Benson)

Howard S. Marks, W’67, and his wife, Nancy, established an endowed professorship at Penn Arts and Sciences. As the Howard Marks Professor of Economic History, Marc Flandreau studies the international monetary system and the financial entanglements of international institutions from the mid-19th century to World War I. Flandreau is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, and his work, which looks at economic issues within their historical context, has already changed our understanding of the origins of the international gold standard, the determinants of government creditworthiness, and the negative effects of colonial rule on economic development.

“It was extremely exciting to be named the Howard Marks Professor of Economic History,” says Flandreau. “The explicit mandate of the chair is to promote research and teaching at that juncture between economics and history. For me it’s like a dream job, as it is something in which I’ve been actively engaged for many years.”

Flandreau is a multidisciplinary scholar who has authored three books: Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange: A Financial History of Victorian Science; The Glitter of Gold: France, Bimetallism, and the Emergence of the International Gold Standard; and Money Doctors: The Experience of International Financial Advising, 1850 – 2000. His research has received support from Bank Mirabaud, the Fondation Bank de France and France’s Agence Nationale de la Recherche. He is co-founder and former president of the European Historical Economics Society and serves on the editorial boards of leading journals in economic history.

Flandreau is currently working on a book on the evolution of sovereign debt markets in the 19th century. He’s also exploring the complex relationships between capitalism and humanitarianism as seen through the lives of men recognized as both businessmen and humanitarians. In fall 2017 he taught the undergraduate course Financial Meltdown, Past and Present, and the graduate-level Ten Ways (More or Less) of Doing Economic History (aka “Debates and Methods in Economic History”). He is offering a course called Capitalism and Humanitarianism in spring 2018.

Howard Marks has spent his career in finance, and is the founder and co-chair of Oaktree Capital Management, LLC. As Chair of the University Trustee’s Investment Board from 2000 to 2010—a decade bookended by major financial crises—he avoided the market’s excesses and grew the endowment from $3.2 billion to $5.9 billion, receiving national recognition for his management. His book, The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor, was published in 2013.

In addition to this professorship, Howard and Nancy Marks generously established the Marks Family Writing Center and the Howard Marks Investor Speaker Series at Wharton, and are longtime scholarship supporters for students in all four undergraduate schools. They have also endowed another faculty chair, the Howard Marks University Professorship. Howard Marks is an emeritus trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.