A Fellow Traveller’s Tale

How Mao Cost a Cambridge Economist the Nobel Prize - by Julian Gewirtz

In the autumn of 1975, there was one name “on everyone’s list for this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics,” Business Week magazine trumpeted: the Cambridge economist Joan Robinson. The week before the prize announcement, the magazine predicted that Robinson would be the first woman to win the prize. A major interpreter of John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx, she was one of the most prominent economists of her generation.

But when the names of the winners were read out at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Robinson’s name was not among them. What went wrong? More than perhaps any other factor, one man was to blame: Mao Zedong.