History of arranging Sraffa’s Papers (I)

Jonathan Smith, Trinity Archivist who supervised the Wren Trinity arrangement of Sraffa’s Papers, indicates in a very instructive footnote from his entry to the 2012 Cambridge Journal of Economics Special Issue on Sraffa that ‘the history of attempts to catalogue Sraffa’s papers is not particularly straightforward’ (Smith, 2012, p. 1297, note *).

What we do know is that in 1974 Alessandro Roncaglia and John Eatwell gave a preliminary list of the material.  Smith  reports this was done in relation to the two scholars’ translation of Sraffa’s original 1925 Italian article critiquing Marshallian theory (Sraffa 1925), this article being the precursor to the more truncated 1926 version that appeared in English in the Economic Journal (Sraffa 1926).  For purposes of this translation they had asked Sraffa permission to consult the preparatory material for the 1925 and 1926 articles and while engaged in that endeavor realized how important it was to make a list of the content of the entire bulk of material. In an email exchange Professor Roncaglia related his account of this as follows:

“[W]hat I did in 1974-75, with some help from John [Eatwell], was not a catalogue or an inventory, but simply a rough list of material in Sraffa’s Trinity room, mainly with the aim of helping him to find things around and with the benefit, on my side, to talk with him on his manuscripts. Most of my time in Cambridge in that period (in all, a few weeks) was spent in preparing together with John an English translation of Sraffa’s 1925 article” (Alessandro Roncaglia to Scott Carter, December 9, 2015; reproduced with permission),

In Smith’s (2012) account Roncaglia and Eatwell (R&E) wrote to Sraffa on 8 August 1974 to which Sraffa returned the correspondence one month later. R&E then sent a letter in January 1975 and Sraffa responded several months later in June 1975, and during the interim in March 1975 we find papers listed by Roncaglia.  Smith articulates three points related to the Roncaglia-Eatwell list and exchange with Sraffa:

‘First, that the catalogue of papers that date from this period (e.g. 1974-75) are more a locations guide than a catalogue – sort of a preliminary draft that you would expect to be made before any attempt was made to order the papers.  Second, that in their second letter Eatwell and Roncaglia make it evident that any ordering of the papers was yet to take place. Third, that Sraffa forbade any further cataloguing at that time’ (Smith, 2012, pg. 1297, note *; emphasis added).

The second and third points especially are of tremendous importance.  Here evidence emerges that the ‘original order’ in which we find Sraffa’s papers has to be taken with a relative grain of salt.  In the first instance many-a-hand was placed on the material even before Sraffa’s death, as reported by Smith (2012) echoing a warning originally given by de Vivo (2001):

‘De Vivo (2001)…sounds a warning with regard to the archive as a whole and reminds us that Alessandro Roncaglia, John Eatwell, Antonietta Campus and Pierangelo Garegnani all helped with his papers during his lifetime, and we should thus be cautious in coming to any conclusions based on the arrangement of the material’ (Smith 2012, p. 1296)

And Smith reports that Sraffa himself indicated that as of 1975 the order of the papers was yet to be determined, as seen in his (Sraffa’s) reply dated June 1975 to the Roncaglia and Eatwell correspondence sent the previous January:

‘In his reply [Sraffa] explains that he feels that the questions raised  are connected with the final destination of the papers and that any work on them should cease until he had made up his mind about their final place of deposit’ (Smith 2012, p. 1297, note *).

Sraffa never made up his mind, and we can be reasonably certain that the papers in the order we find them in the Wren archive reflects the state at which Sraffa indicates in June 1975 – that is to say, the ‘final place of deposit’ remaining undetermined.

Sraffa’s died in 1983. He had appointed Pierangelo Garegnani as his Literary Executor who with Krishna Bharadwaj began in autumn of that year an account of Sraffa’s archival material.  Professor Garegnani (2003) in an article first published in Italian in 1998[1] recounts the story in the following way:

‘In autumn of 1983, shortly after Sraffa’s death, and then in Spring 1984, Professor Krishna Bharadwaj of Nehru University, New Delhi and myself made a first reconnaissance and inventory of the manuscript material, not least to ensure nothing got mislaid when it was moved from Sraffa’s rooms in Trinity or in the Marshall-Library to a store-room of the College.  In fact, only an index of the manuscripts a few pages long existed before then, drawn up by Professor Roncaglia, when helping Sraffa tidy up his papers in around 1974.

The inventory thus carried out immediately after Sraffa’s death was followed by a more detailed examination and systematic listing of the manuscripts as a preliminary to working on them (Trinity College, the owner of the papers, postponed a professional cataloguing of the papers; cataloguing was begun only after the papers were made available to the public, in early 1994).  The systematic examination and listing of the manuscripts was rather laborious because of their, for the most part, extremely fragmentary nature; for example, all the pages in the enormous mass of material had to be numbered. It was on this basis that the papers were microfilmed at the University Library in 1987. This job took up almost all the time that Professor Bharadwaj and I could devote to the manuscripts up to the summer of 1987’ (Garegnani, 2003, p. 623).

Here we find that the original Bharadwaj-Garengani (BG) arrangement of 1983-89 underwent two stages.  The first is the preliminary inventory accomplished immediately after Sraffa’s death ostensibly which followed the Roncaglia-Eatwell (R&E) list of a decade earlier, and second ‘a more detailed examination and systematic listing of the manuscripts as a preliminary to working on them’.

It is in the first preliminary inventory of 1983-84 that we conjecture the meta-structure of files in the BG arrangement was set, following the same method as the R&E list, as in both R&E and BG the different collections of files were identified according to the location they were found in Sraffa’s various quarters.  We know this is the case for R&E given Smith’s identification of it more as a ‘locations guide’, something made explicit in their letter to Sraffa dated 8 August 1974:

‘[W]e have already helped you to conduct a number of searches in your rooms and now we have a good idea of what papers there are, where they are, and what papers are, at the moment, missing.  We have so far compiled two lists of materials, one relating to the cupboard left of the entrance door, the other the brown paper packet at present in your room at the Marshall Library’ (Roncaglia and Eatwell to Sraffa, quoted in Smith 2012, pg. 1297, note*).

Both Kurz (2009) and Smith (1998) tell us that the same ‘location method’ was used in the meta-file convention adopted in the BG arrangement:

‘After [Sraffa’s] death the late Krishna Bharadwaj and Pierangelo Garegnani produced a valuable inventory and numbering of the papers so that nothing should get lost in moving then from Sraffa’s room in College to the place of storage.  The inventory was based on the locations where the papers had been found in Sraffa’s rooms and the grouping he had given them.  Bharadwaj and Garegnani also began to examine the manuscripts.  Jonathan Smith, archivist, then produced the catalogue of the papers on behalf of Trinity College, which is the one now generally used’ (Kurz 2009, p. 266)

For his part Jonathan Smith characterizes the BG arrangement as follows:

‘In a codicil to his will, Sraffa named Pierangelo Garegnani as his literary executor and it was to Garegnani that the task was left to bring together the physical remains of Sraffa’s literary estate.  Much important material was in Sraffa’s room in Neville’s Court, the second court of Trinity College, in bookcases, chests of drawers and suitcases….Although some papers were in good order, others were something of a jumble. Further material…was in the rooms that he had used as Librarian of the Marshall Library of Economics. In the early months of 1984, Garegnani and Krishna Bharadwaj prepared a rough inventory of the papers as they found them in two locations, before they were boxed and removed to library storage.  From May 1985 to June 1986 Professor Bharadwaj worked on the papers under the supervision of Garegnani.  In this time she was able to work her way through the papers, item by item, identifying and assessing the significance of each piece.

A more detailed catalogue was prepared and items were individually numbered and prepared for microfilming, which was undertaken by the Photography Department of Cambridge University Library.  Although the Bharadwaj list is fundamentally flawed in archival terms, this intermediate catalogue is most important in helping to preserve the order of the papers as Sraffa left them (it is clear that Garegnani and Bharadwaj knew the importance of this). There is a map of the locations of papers as they were found in Sraffa’s rooms, and what initially seems to be clumsy references to “Green Chest, Bottom Drawer” or “Horizontal piling” give useful clues to the arrangement of the papers while in use’ (Smith 1998, p. 44).

Cleary the accounts of Garegnani, Kurz and Smith resonate.  In each we find the BG arrangement broken into two distinct phases; an initial inventory based on the Roncaglia-Eatwell list or ‘location’s guide’ of the various piles in Sraffa’s rooms, and a later more developed arrangement of the material, one that as we discover took conceptual content of the material into account.  The end of the BG endeavor can be marked as 1989, after which Bharadwaj began to experience health problems, which as Garegnani[2] informs us, interfered with her continued work on the papers, precipitating her premature death in 1992 at the young age of 57. [3]


[1] ‘Sui manoscitti di Piero Sraffa’, Rivista Italiana degli Economistii (Journal of the Società Italiana degli Economisti), April 1998.

[2] ‘After 1987…deterioration in Professor Bharadwaj’s health hindered her work increasingly until her premature death in 1992, shortly before she had planned a visit to Italy, so we could resume work on the Sraffa manuscripts’ (Garegnani 2003, p. 624).

[3] Geoff Harcourt’s (1993-4) Memoir of Mrs. Bharadwaj in the JPKE recounts the trying time she had while engaged in this arrangement:

‘The last time I saw Krishna for any length of time was when she came to Trinity in the middle and late 1980s to put some order into Piero Sraffa’s papers; Piero had died in September 1983 and Pierangelo Garegnani, his literary executor, asked Krishna to help with this mammoth but vital task.  It was a time of great tension for Krishna for her love of Sraffa himself and her belief in the importance of his contributions obliged her, she thought, to take on this daunting task; yet she also felt keenly the sacrifice of time she would otherwise have spent working in India on pressing Indian problems. This created an insoluble dilemma for her, a sense of ambivalence and doubt as to whether she had done the right thing, made the correct choice, and I fear that the psychological trauma all this undoubtedly caused her was a significant factor leading to her final illness.  Certainly I had never before seen her so agitated and unhappy, working–effectively as ever and as long hours as ever, but without the usual resilience and joie de vivre that went with her sense of purpose and drive. It was desperately worrisome for her friends to see her health deteriorating under the strain; we could offer support but not really relieve her of the essential burden and pressure. I was glad to learn the other day (January 1993) that the papers are in order and catalogued, although not yet opened, for this is another vindication of Krishna’s devotion and work-but at what a cost.’ (Harcourt 1993-4, p. 308).


de Vivo, G. 2001. ‘Some notes on the Sraffa papers,’ pp. 157-64 in Cozzi, T. and Marchionatti, R. (eds), Piero Sraffa’s Political Economy.

Garegnani P. 2003, ‘On Piero Sraffa’s manuscripts,’ English translation of an edited version of a paper published in April 1998 in Rivista italiana degli economisti, the journal of the Società Italiana degli Economisti. In Kurz, H. and Salvadori, N. (eds), The Legacy of Piero Sraffa, two vols. In Intellectual Legacies in Modern Economics. Cheltenham and Northampton, Edward Elgar, 623-625.

Harcourt , G.C. 1993-4, ‘Krishna Bharadwaj, August 21, 1935 – March 9, 1992: A Memoir,’ Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, 16 (2).

Kurz, H. 2009, ‘Preparing the edition of Piero Sraffa’s unpublished papers and correspondence,’ Cahiers d’économie Politique / Papers in Political Economy vol. 2, no. 57, 261-278

Smith, J. 1998. ‘An archivist’s apology: The papers of Piero Sraffa at Trinity College Cambridge,’ Pensiero Economico Itlaniano, vol. 6, 36-54.

Smith, J. 2012. ‘Circuitous processes, jigsaw puzzles, and indisputable results: Making the best use of the manuscripts of Sraffa’s Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities,’ Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 36, no. 6, 1291-1301.

Sraffa P. 1925. ‘Sulle relazioni fra costo e quantita produtta”, translated as “On the Relation Between Cost and Quantity Produced” by Eatwell J. and Roncaglia A.,in L.L. Pasinietti (ed.). (1998) Italian Economic Papers, vol. III, Bologna: Il Mulino; Oxford: Oxford University Press:  323-63

Sraffa, P. 1926.‘The Laws of Return Under Competitive Conditions’, Economic Journal, 36: 535-50.

Sraffa, P. 1960.Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities: Prelude to the Critique of Economic Theory. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.


A Road Map Through the Sraffa Archive…

Sraffa’s archive material will be uploaded onto the Wren Trinity website in short order.  Already with Section E online we have access to Sraffa’s diaries.  I have been assured that in relatively short order we will have Section D up as well. Section D is the heart of the archive.  It contains Sraffa’s Notes (D1), his Lectures (D2), and his publications (D3).

It is important that a road map be provided through this archival material.  This is because in relatively short order tens of thousands of color images will be made available to the world. This means that scholars and others interested will find that they can become easily lost in this forest as they stumble amongst the various trees. What we will try to provide on this blog and website, and also on our new Heretical Sraffa Youtube channel, is a forum whereby we can all gain understanding of the nature of the forest so that we are not lost among the trees.  I have an introductory video at the Youtube channel link above that speak to this.

The next blogpost will discuss the history of the different arrangements of the material.

On the bright future for Sraffa archival scholarship…

The uploading of Sraffa’s archival material is an important milestone in the development of the archival and intellectual legacy of the Italian Cambridge economist.  It is significant that scholars and interested people everywhere are beginning to have access to images of Sraffa’s material written in his own hand.

With the uploading of Sraffa’s Diaries, people are able to see for themselves the potential of the digital archive.  Here everything is uploaded and scholars and interested lay-people everywhere can view and study the material. The potential is tremendous and I cannot stress how exciting this will all be in the next several years and then some.  We are fortunate indeed to be able to finally see the development of the thinking of this brilliant mind.

An issue that we have to deal with for all of the archival material uploaded on the Wren website is the organization the material.  The material uploaded on the Wren website will not be organized conceptually, and instead represents the way in which one would view the material at the Wren. This means that across the archive we will have raw virgin material that needs to be collected, organized, and made useful for scholarly study.

This is huge news especially for interested and younger scholars that want to explore the material for themselves. This will become increasing true as more and more of the material is uploaded.

So what I would like to get started is some kind of online collective effort to organize, collect, and conceptualize the material.  For example take the diaries. Currently we have no concordance or table for their contents. Well if people are interested and industrious, then we can divvy-up portions of the material and following some general unified structure people can take responsibility of certain sections (i.e. years) of the diaries to provide some general account of what is in each file.  We can organize all of that on this  website, which currently exists as a blog only but will expand into a website proper in short order.

What I ultimately envision is a Wiki-Sraffa Archive, where anyone who is serious and undogmatic no matter the ideology is welcome to play a role. And there is a lot to do! Already you can see how many diaries and entries Sraffa has!  Once we start to get a handle on the content of these various files it will much easier to put them to use in terms of conducive and effective study of the material.

Specifics of the Diaries

Because of the time constraints that occupy all of us who visited the Wren, my time there has mostly been spent in Sraffa’s Notes on PCMC (D3/12), venturing out only on a few occasions to the Lecture Notes on the Advanced Theory of Value of 1927-31 (D2/4), the Black Notebook from 1943 (D1/91) which include Sraffa’s Notes on Bortkiewicz, and some of the important books in Sraffa’s vast library, such as his copy of Capital Volume I he read while interned at on the Isle of Man from July to September 1940. So just like most of you this is the first time that I have seen Sraffa’s Diaries!

Looking at the diaries in Section E in some detail we see that Wren has uploaded 49 different files that represent Sraffa’s personal diaries from 1927 to 1977.  As people work though the diaries there are a few of things that should be kept in mind:

  1. These diaries are small in physical size, maybe about 3 inches by 1.5 inches. But Sraffa’s writing was very small in size, often so small that he could almost pen a paragraph on a postage stamp!
  2. In the main these diaries record only what Sraffa was doing and his agenda. A lot of it is in Italian and yes we have people involved in our project who are native Italian speakers, and by ‘our project’ I include anyone who is serious about this effort.
  3. Really this is the first time that people can peruse the material with ease.  Accordingly for those who simply want to begin from the start and go all the way through, please make a record of your activity.  Specifically we need to make an account of the content. I will have more to say about this and as this website is developed we will have a place for people to submit any such content.
  4. For those who are familiar with Sraffa’s life and his intellectual activity, one of the best ways to approach these diaries is to recall specific points in Sraffa’s life that were associated with intellectual and other activity, and then see what Sraffa writes in his diaries.  Again, make an account of the content. As two examples of this consider the following important dates in Sraffa’s life:

Internment at Metropole Internment Camp, July – September 1940.

As a citizen of Italy which in 1940 was a belligerent nation with the UK, Sraffa was sent to internment at Metropole Internment Camp on the Isle of Man in July 1940.  The relevant diary is E12, and you can follow Sraffa’s activity up until July 1940 where he marks his calendar with a bold ‘X’ and next to it the word ‘internato‘ , the Italian word for ‘internee’.  The Diary ends here and the next one (E13) picks up in October 1940, after Sraffa was finally released at the behest and insistence of Keynes among others.

Sraffa goes to the Island of Majorca, January – March 1955

In January 1955 Sraffa left for the Island of Majorca to work on his book. In his entry for the Memorial Issue on Sraffa at the Cambridge Journal of Economics in 1988,  Brian Pollitt writes of the impact of Maurice Dobb in Sraffa’s editing work on The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo where we find the following account of the story:

“On 3 January 1955 Dobb reported that ‘Piero is just back from interesting voyagings on the other side of the world; Ricardo Vol. X (should) be out about Feb; and he’s now off for a stay in Majorca – hoping to do some work (non-Ricardo) of his own, tho’ not too hopeful that he actually will’…The work that Sraffa hoped to do in Majorca, of course, was begin that process of thought and assembly of past thoughts that eventually emerged as Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. That he would have felt able to do this before the publication of his edition of Ricardo seems unthinkable’ (Pollitt, 1988, p. 64).

In looking at the diary E27 from 1954-55 we find this story borne out.  Sraffa titles the whole diary ‘1954-55 Majorca‘. The diary begins the first week of December 1954. This is important because generally December was often a month of tremendous intellectual activity for Sraffa and one can see this when going through the material in D3/12; indeed I have always been struck by the amount of work he got accomplished on Christmas Day and New Years Day for several years; it seems that when other people were celebrating Sraffa was often busy with his work.

As we see from the Pollitt quote, by December 1954 Sraffa had finished his Ricardo, the last of the ten volumes were sent to press (Volumes I, II, III, and IV were published in 1951; Volumes V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X in 1955; Volume XI in 1975). Of course he would come back to finish his Index to Ricardo’s Works in 1974-5, but the completion of Volume X marked the end of his editorial responsibilities and the beginning of the third phase of his intellectual activity and the final push to write his book. And when we look at his diaries from the time, we find a fascinating litany of people he met with before embarking on his journey, some of whom are:

Week of December 8 – 11, 1954: ‘Joan’ (Joan Robinson); ‘Nicky’ (Nicolas Kaldor); ‘Garegnani’ (Pierangeli Garegnani); ‘Tarshis’ (Lorie Trashes); ‘Austin’ (Austin Robinson)

Week of December 12-14, 1954: ‘Joan’, where Sraffa writes in parentheses ‘storia Kahn-Kaldor’, where ‘storia’ is Italian for ‘history’

Week of December 15-18, 1954: ‘Joan’

Week of December 22-25, 1954: ‘Joan’; ‘Austin’; ‘Brunner’ (Carlo Brunner), and a ‘Mrs Pettoello’ on Gramsci

Week of December 26-28, 1954: ‘Kahn” (Richard Kahn);’Brunner’

Week of December 29, 1954 – January 1, 1955:’ Kahn’; ‘Mrs (?) Harry Johnson’; ‘Telefonata da Mattioli’

Week of January 2 – 4, 1955: ‘Walk with Kahn and Joan’; ‘Maurice’

People can click on each of the weeks and see for themselves the complete list of names as I only highlight a few notable ones that stand out to me.  Clearly Sraffa had a busy schedule and met often with people in the days immediately preceding his trip to Majorca, where he was to work on what he called his ‘economics’.  On December 27 Sraffa had evidently made arrangements for Majorca with ‘…book BEA for Majorca…’, and the diary entries for the week of January 5 are chock full of entries related to travel plans.

I encourage people interested in the third phase of Sraffa constructive activity to go through the diaries beginning here, with Majorca. We have much to say in subsequent posts, but it is here we find Sraffa begins his final phase in the eventual publication of his book, and although I have not yet gone through them, I am certain that the entries from here until 1961 or 1962 will be full of very interesting tidbits of information regarding the writing of his book, especially as regards the people with whom Sraffa met.


Pollitt, B. H. (1988) ‘The collaboration of Maurice Dobb in Sraffa’s edition of Ricardo’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 12, pp. 55–65.


It is with great pleasure that I (unofficially) announce that FINALLY the world can see some of Sraffa’s archival material!  Sraffa’s diaries (Section E of the Wren Trinity convention) are now online at the Wren Library website. You can get the link here. We will make much use of the diaries in future posts on this blog in the process of discovery of Sraffa’s scientific journey.

This is amazing news for Sraffa scholars and others who have interest!  I have been assured that the next round of images uploaded will be of better quality, but the quality here is still pretty good!

Thanks to Jonathan Smith, Giancarlo de Vivo, and Murray Milgate for their ongoing work in making this possible. We are now seeing the first fruits of what in an earlier post I called the ‘de Vivo online endeavor.’

And thanks are especially due to Lord Eatwell, Sraffa’s Literary Executor, for his vision in opening the material and making it accessible for all interested scholars worldwide.

Introduction to the Sraffa Archive

Sraffa’s archival material, consisting of over 30,000 pages of content, is housed at the Wren Library, Trinity College, University of Cambridge. It is arranged according to the Wren Trinity convention under the following ‘macro’ conceptual structure of sections:

A. Personal and Family Papers

B. Academic Career

C. Correspondence

D. Notes, Lectures, and Publications

E. Diaries

F. Memoirs of colleagues

G. Publications by others

H. Bibliographical and manuscript interests

I. Items removed from printed books

J. Miscellaneous

Most of the recent literature on Sraffa’s archive consults D: Notes, Lectures, and Publications, and to a lesser extent C: Correspondence, E: Diaries, and I: Items removed from printed books.  Section D is the most complex and itself divides into three subjections, D1: Notes, D2: Lectures, and D3: Publications.  A partial breakdown of this section is in the following table:

Section D: Notes, Lectures, and Publications
D1: Notes (1923-63) (92 sub-groupings)
D2: Lectures (1927-43) (8 sub-groupings)
D2/1: Lecture notes on economic theory

D2/2: ‘The corporative state’, given to ‘Keynes Club’

D2/3: ‘Revalorization of the lira’, given to Emmanuel Economic Society

D2/4: Lecture Notes on the Advanced Theory of Value

D2/5: Lectures on continental banking

D2/6: ‘Il banchieri fiorentini nel 200’

D2/7: Two lectures on Italian problems…

D2/8: Lectures on Industry



(3 Nov 1927)



(14 May 1929)



D3: Publications (1920-73) (14 sub-groupings)
D3/1: L’Inflazione monetaria in Italia durante e dopo la Guerra

D3/2: ‘The Bank crisis in Italy’, Economic Journal (EJ)

D3/3: Untitled article on the economics of fascism

D3/4: Obituary of Maffeo Pantaleoni

D3/5: ‘Sulla Relazione fra costo e quantita prodotta’

D3/6: The Laws of returns under competitive conditions, EJ

D3/7: ‘Increasing returns and the representative firm: a symposium’, EJ

D3/8: ‘An alleged correction of Ricardo’. QJE

D3/9: ‘Dr Hayek on money and capital’, EJ

D3/10: ‘Money and capital: a rejoinder’, EJ

D3/11: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo

D3/12: Production of commodities by means of commodities

D3/13: ‘Production of commodities by means of commodities: A Comment’, EJ

D3/14: ‘Produzione congiunta di merci a mezzo di merci. Riposta a Manara’

















(14 May 1929)

D3/12 Notes on Production of Commodities contains 115 file folders and around 7000 mostly handwritten pages which are archived according to Trinity as D3/12/1 through D3/12/115.

Sraffa’s archival material was subject to an initial inventory and two subsequent independent arrangements, one of which is the Wren Trinity arrangement presented above.  Chronologically-speaking Wren Trinity is the later version and the one that archival scholarship uses as its standard convention (Kurz 2009, p.268).  Before this there were two separate efforts directed to the papers, the inventory of 1974-5 made by Alessandro Roncaglia and John Eatwell, and the catalogue made in the mid to late 1980s by Krishna Bharadwaj and Pierangelo Garegnani.  The history of cataloguing the Sraffa Papers will be the subject of the next posting.


Kurz, H. 2009, Preparing the edition of Piero Sraffa’s unpublished papers and correspondence, Cahiers d’économie Politique / Papers in Political Economy vol. 2, no. 57, 261-278

Open email to Sraffa Scholars and others interested worldwide announcing Digital Sraffa Online Project

Email below sent on August 29, 2016 announcing the Digital Sraffa project:

Dear Sraffa Scholars and others interested worldwide,

This email is bcc’d to over 230 Sraffa scholars and others interested in the archival legacy of the Italian Cambridge Economist Piero Sraffa. Please free free to forward this to anyone, as well as post on various blogs, etc.

My name is Scott Carter, Associate Professor of Economics at The University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. I am happy to announce a project of mine called the Digital Sraffa. This is one of three independent projects that deals with Sraffa’s archival material, the other two being (i) the Selections project under the guidance of Heinz Kurz, et. al., and (ii) the online project led by Giancarlo de Vivo and his colleagues charged with putting the entirety of the archive on the web. As I say in my blog (see below), we may be from famine to feast in relatively short order! So interested scholars get ready!

I am very excited about these other two projects and their impending release and will certainly ensure that the Digital Sraffa interfaces nicely with them so that interested scholars will be able to navigate through the 3 different projects with relative ease.

My project is specific to the section of the Sraffa papers archived as D3/12; these are Sraffa’s Notes on Production of Commodities (PCMC).  This section is the heart of the archive in my opinion, and amounts to 115 file folders and over 7000 mostly handwritten pages.

I am happy to report that I have a complete color digital copy of all of the content in D3/12 – all 115 file folders and 7000+ pages, and the Digital Sraffa is the electronic interface of this material in its entirety. If and when allowed to be uploaded on the web, it is to be set in a user-friendly environment thus allowing for easy searching and downloading of these color images by scholars everywhere as it is my hope to be able to provide complete and unfettered access to this material worldwide. The images were taken with a handheld Canon Powershot and saved as JPEG files.  Each individual piece of archive is its own file, which means that with the Digital Sraffa people will be able to sort and search the material in D3/12 robustly according to various conventions as well as how they please.

There are many beautiful aspects of the Digital Sraffa, one of the main ones being that with the entirety of the material available as complete color images a mere click away, the overall meta-structure of the archive can be better understood. It is important to emphasize that since my project focusses on the larger meta-dimensions of the material in D3/12 only, it is a complement to the other Sraffa archive projects. In a word, here for the first time Sraffa’s archival material on PCMC can be studied as a complete organic text absent of the interpretational issues that scholars who are not fortunate enough to make their way to the Wren Library, Trinity College Cambridge, often must ford in their study of and interests in the objective content of Sraffa’s notes.

My work is meant to provide a bridge to D3/12 for interested scholars so that they can easier connect their work and that of others to the objective content of the material in the archive.  Believe me, as somebody who has had the privilege to study this material as a complete organic text using digital files which can be (re)assembled and sorted (unlike study at the Wren Reading Room where scholars are given one or two files at a time), I assure you the material in D3/12 is very fertile intellectually and subject to different but often no less valid interpretations.  After all, Sraffa himself said his book was only a Prelude; in my opinion the Prelude needs to be drawn to a close, and let the symphony truly begin! This will best happen in my opinion once interested scholars everywhere are able to access the material in its entirety, and read the content of the material on its own merit thereby making their own minds up as to the significance and ready-to-be-unleashed potentiality contained in those notes. Then scholars can see for themselves the amazing process whereby this brilliant mind winnowed-down these 7000+ pages into a monograph on the pure theory of value and distribution of less than 100 pages.

I am also happy to announce my blog, dubbed Heretical Sraffa: Furtive Thoughts on Economics and Economic Theory.  This will be devoted to the endeavor and I will be blogging on many aspects of section D3/12 of the Sraffa Papers. The blog can be found at the website:

http://www.sraffaarchive.org and also there is my twitter account


I will be blogging on this matter from now on; there is so much I have to share with those interested in understanding the structure and overall content of the section of Sraffa’s archival material devoted to Notes on PCMC archived as D3/12.

Please note that I look forward to developing the positive and constructive aspects of the material in D3/12; accordingly any criticisms I may have with other scholars will be amicable ones of substance regarding the theory and material. I hope that this is reciprocated by scholars critical of my work and efforts.

I look forward to the future of Sraffa scholarship. We are at a very exciting time and I know that the majority of Sraffa scholars will be very happy to know that perhaps the material will be made available for unfettered scientific study in short order.  Making such happen is my major impetus and motivation.

Kind Regards,

Scott Carter

Sraffa’s archival material is a gift to the science of economics

Perhaps what makes me the consummate Heretic has to do with my opinion that Sraffa’s archival papers belong to the science of economics, and anyone who wishes to read them should have the right to do so in their entirety. This above all motivates my efforts now and in future work.

As of this writing there are three projects in the works devoted to making Sraffa’s archival material available to the world.  They are:

  1. The long awaited Selections project under the guidance of Heinz D. Kurz as General Editor
  2. The online effort led by Giancarlo de Vivo in which the entire archive is to be put on the web
  3. My project called The Digital Sraffa which is an electronic arrangement on a searchable platform of color digital images of all of Sraffa’s Notes on his book Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities (PCMC).

The beautiful thing is that in relatively short order we will be moving from famine to feast regarding Sraffa’s archival material…so interested scholars be ready! It is important that the various projects be understood if the end goal is a better understanding of the content of Sraffa’s archival material.

The Digital Sraffa project of mine is intended to make available to all scholars digital color copies of the entirety of Sraffa’s notes on PCMC, consisting of 115 file folders and over 7000 pages of mostly handwritten material, archived according to the original Trinity convention as D3/12.  This amounts to a subset of the material that is to be put on the web under the (unrelated) de Vivo project.  The way I have approached the 115 files in D3/12 is to understand the entirety of the material as a complete organic text. Scholars will be able to search and sort the material however they want.  The gold standard for the way I envision making the material accessible to the general scholarly community is the way Sraffa himself approached his edition of Ricardo in the eleven volumes of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardospecifically the way in which Sraffa wove the various letters from the different correspondents in Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX, and also the way he made his Index in Volume XI.

Indeed, when we consider the way Sraffa arranged the Ricardo letters, we see that not only is every letter numbered, but also that each letter tells the reader the correspondent and letter to which it is a reply as well as the correspondent and letter that replies to it.  In essence Sraffa conceived of the Ricardo Correspondence as a collection of what we would now call discussion threads by, from, and to the various correspondents.  In my opinion this is a very advanced way to think of the matter indeed, and it is Sraffa’s own methodology in the treatment of his Ricardo that motivates my arrangement of Sraffa’s Notes on PCMC. And when considering the Index in Volume XI, well in my opinion it remains a masterpiece of indexing and serves as the basis of the ideal manner in which the indexing of Sraffa’s own archival material should be approached.

I will be making many posts on The Digital Sraffa in the future in an effort to bring this vision to fruition and thereby make the material available to all scholars; such is one of my main goals in this endeavor.

Sraffa’s archival material is a gift he gave to the science of economics. The focus should be on getting all of the material into the hands of interested scholars in a user-friendly manner so that people can finally read and study the entirety of the material for themselves, thereby allowing for a more general dialogue to finally ensue.

Course: ECON 3243 – Comparative Heterodox Theories of Value, Price, Distribution, and Growth

This semester I will be teaching an undergraduate course in the Economics Department at The University of Tulsa called ‘ECON 3243: Comparative Heterodox Theories of Value, Price, Distribution, and Growth’.  We put this course on the books and in our curriculum to provide our majors and other interested students with the theoretical traditions in heterodox economic theory as part of our effort to make the Economics Major at Tulsa broad and deep.

Previously the course used a hodgepodge of books including Pasinetti (1977),  Foley & Michl (1999) and Kurz & Salvadori (1995).  Of course since this is an undergraduate course it was accompanied by many (often handwritten) lecture notes and original powerpoint slide shows. As interesting as these books are, it is not the rigor that works against them in terms of continued use for an undergraduate course but rather the fact they are dated.

Which is why when the new book by Anwar Shaikh (2016) entitled Capitalism came out, well I immediately thought of adopting it for this course.  And after reading and working through portions of it, I have decided to do exactly that.  The course begins August 23 and goes through the fall semester.

Professor Shaikh and his colleagues have created a very thorough website for the book.  It is at www.RealECon.org .  There you can find all sorts of information, including a discount code for an already inexpensive book, chapter-by-chapter video streamed lectures by Anwar, and all of the data.  Also you will find a forum for my course here:


I am in the process of writing the syllabus and the plan is to cover at least ten chapters.

Chapter 1 of the book is an introduction that summarizes the content of the subsequent chapters.  Accordingly students are to read and re-read that Introduction and follow it along as we work through the individual chapters,  We plan to keep it simple and do a chapter every week or so. The tentative outline is:

  • Chapter  1 – read throughout semester
  • Chapters 2 though 10
  • Chapter 12 and as far as we can get after that (13, 14, and 15 would be ideal)

Everyone is welcome to keep up with the chapter readings and participate in the discussion.  I will of course not require my students to take part in such a public forum but will encourage them to do so, and certainly will have them follow any posts and discussion threads that may come about.

As part of teaching the course, powerpoint slide shows will be made as well as assignments and exams, all of which will be made available to anyone interested, including professors who may want to send their own students to the site.

Like Professor Shaikh’s new book, we are embarking on new terrain here.  Ideally we can try and get a ‘global dialogue’ for anyone serious about following through the book this semester.

One final disclaimer: all of the material that I post is my own responsibility, although it will be based of course on Shaikh’s book.  No doubt there will be some bugs to work out as we move forward but in all this endeavor is very exciting and it will be interesting to see where it all goes and how it all unfolds.



  • Foley, D. & Michl, T. (1999). Growth and Distribution. Harvard University Press
  • Kurz, H. & Salvadori, N. (1995). Theory of Production: A Long Period Analysis. Cambridge University Press
  • Pasinetti, L. (1977). Lectures on the Theory of Production. Columbia University Press.
  • Shaikh, A. (2016). Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crisis. Oxford University Press.

Welcome to Heretical Sraffa

Welcome to my blog, Heretical Sraffa: Furtive Thoughts on Economics and Economic Theory.  Just a bit about myself.  My name is Scott Carter and I received the PhD in Economics from The New School for Social Research after having studied there in the 1990s and early 2000’s.  My current position is Associate Professor of Economics at The University of Tulsa (TU).  Our department at TU is undergraduate only and we strive to provide majors with deep and broad approach to economic theory. Accordingly in our department neoclassical and mainstream theory is taught alongside ecological, environmental, and heterodox theories. Graduates leave prepared (hopefully) for graduate work and/or work in the public and private sectors.

I am also a member of the Steering Committee for the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE).  URPE is a great resource for heterodox-leaning economists and has a rich history;  in 2018 we approach 50 years of scholarship, research, pedagogy, and organizing around Radical Political Economics. One of the areas that we have been active in lately is to organize whole sessions of URPE panels at various professional academic conferences: the ASSA (URPE@ASSA; a presence we have had since the late 1960s), the Eastern Economics Association (URPE@EEA which we have organized for a decade, the last program being here) , and now the Southern Economics Association (URPE@SEA which this November enters its second year; note I will get to people the upcoming URPE@SEA program soon).

My research interests concern Marxian political economy and the economic theory of Piero Sraffa; here is a nice intellectual-biographic article on Sraffa written by Alessandro Roncaglia.  Notice I did not say ‘Sraffian’ because these days that connotes its own approach to Sraffa. My approach is different, although not necessarily incompatible, with many of the approaches to Sraffa that abound, including the orthodox Sraffian.  So to be as to as clear as possible that these postings, musings, and analyses of Sraffa and related themes are my own, the moniker ‘Heretical Sraffa’ dons this blog.

My primary research interest concerns the unpublished archival notes of Piero Sraffa.  I am especially interested in the Sraffa’s notes on his book, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities: Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory. These notes are archived according to the original Trinity convention as D3/12 and consist of 115 files of mostly handwritten material.  There will be a plethora of such posts on Sraffa’s archival material over the course of this blog.

I addition to this blog there is my account at the twitter handle Scott Carter@HereticalSraffa.