Carl Menger papers, 1857-1985, bulk dates 1867-1920

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Menger, Carl, 1840-1921
Carl Menger (1840-1921) was an economic theorist and professor. This collection primarily documents his professional life through his correspondence, writings, and research. It forms part of the Economists' Papers Archive.
10 Linear Feet (28 boxes and three oversize folders.)
Material in English.
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Although this collection includes material from Menger's early professional life, as well as some items from his brothers Anton and Max and his son Karl, it is primarily composed of manuscripts and correspondence (1867-1920) related to his mature academic career.

Menger was a copious notetaker and reader, and he kept bound notebooks with reflections and excerpts from his current reading, especially when he was constructing the Grundsätze. Later, he made notes and revisions on loose sheets, having some of them copied into a clear hand, and on those sheets, he made further revisions. He also wrote directly in the printed text. For example, this collection includes two copies of the Grundsätze with blank pages interleaved with pages of text. In each of these, Menger made extensive notes and changes. Although it is frequently impossible to precisely date his manuscripts, one can get a sense of the development of his thought from this sort of progression with the help, in some cases, of holographic evidence.

Menger's work on political economy and on the nature of his subject and its appropriate research method typify changes in the intellectual frontier in fin-de-siecle Vienna, and Europe as a whole. Some of Menger's most explicit thoughts on these subjects are evident in his lecture notes. Although he taught for over 30 years, there is only a small amount of this material in the collection.

The bulk of the collection consists of Menger's notes and revisions on economic and theoretical topics. The series on general economic principles contains material relating to his first major work, the Grundsätze der Volkswirthschaftslehre (1871). Despite the lack of a full-length manuscript for this book, his background work can be discerned from a set of extensive notebooks that he kept. These contain extracts of works that he read, as well as his reactions and reflections. The range of works shows familiarity with classical authors, particularly Aristotle and Plato, through to his own contemporaries. He showed special interest in writers on law, political economy, and theories of knowledge, such as Grotius, Malthus, J. S. Mill, Ricardo, J. B. Say, Roscher, Descartes, Francis Bacon, Locke, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Savigny. Many of the notebooks date from the late 1860s and thus, in the absence of more explicit information from him about his development, serve the function of intellectual diaries. Early versions of the actual manuscript of the Grundsätze exist in fragmentary form, mostly heavily revised. A table of contents (1870) provides a useful comparison for later revisions and schemas.

This collection contains extensive material on the subjects of money, the gold standard, and capital theory. The work on money, which is some of the best ordered in the collection, was produced as an article for the second edition of the Handwrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften in 1890, with substantial revisions for the third edition in 1909. Yet even after the latter edition, Menger continued to make changes and notations. His work on monetary reform grew out of an appointment to an Austrian state commission on currency and the use of a single or double bullion standard. News clippings of the reports have been maintained in the Printed Material series.

Although not direct concerns in the Grundsätze, capital and interest received much attention from Menger, particularly in his refutation of his colleague Eugen Bohm-Bawerk's 1885 work Geschichte und Kritik der Kapitalzinstheorien. Holographic evidence suggests that after dealing with this subject extensively in the late 1880s, Menger did not return to it again until the 1910s, when he was no longer teaching. At that point, he resumed his considerations of capital and interest but looked additionally at credit and property.

The series which is least easily classified by subject deals with Menger's speculations and theories about the goals and methods of research, specifically for political economy, and the classification of knowledge. The appearance of the Untersuchungen über die Methode der Socialwissenschaften, und der Politischen Oekonomie insbesondere in 1883 provoked sharp criticism from Gustav Schmoller, representing the younger German Historical School (their dispute came to be known as the Methodenstreit). The following year, Menger replied to Schmoller with his Irrtimer des Historismus in der Deutschen Nationalokonomie. After this, Menger published no further major works, although he continued to produce articles and book reviews for many years. His notes and manuscripts indicate that his research came to an end only with his death.

Menger's professional contacts with colleagues such as Emil Sax, Eugen Philippovich, and Bohm-Bawerk demonstrate that although he refused to publish further, he did not work in isolation. The incoming correspondence shows exchanges of information about university teaching and politics, news of the profession, and current research. Letters also refer frequently to works of others in the profession. Few drafts of his own letters exist in the collection. A large proportion of these seem to be addressed to Bohm-Bawerk.

Biographical / historical:

Carl Menger (1840-1921) was a white Austrian economist, journalist, and professor. He is considered the founder of the Austrian School of economics, and he was the father of mathematician Karl Menger.

Menger was born in Neu Sandec, Galicia, the Austrian Empire (present-day Nowy Sącz, Poland) to Anton Menger, a lawyer, and Caroline Gerżabek Menger. Carl had five siblings, including brothers Anton and Max, who would also go on to legal and academic careers. After attending Gymnasium, he studied at the University of Vienna (1859-1860) and Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague (1860-1863), leaving school in 1863 for a position on the staff of the Lemberger Zeitung. He continued to hold a number of other reporting and editorial posts over the course of the next 12 years, ending with the Wiener Zeitung.

In the meantime, Menger began studying law and economics, and was awarded his doctorate in jurisprudence from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 1871. Also in 1871, Menger published Principles of Economics (Grundsätze der Volkswirthschaftslehre), his first major treatise. He became a lecturer in political economy at the University of Vienna in 1872, and he was appointed as an associate professor to the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the University of Vienna in 1873. For the next several years he taught finance and political economy to an increasing number of students, both in seminars and lectures, while also contributing to the Wiener Zeitung.

In addition to his university work, Menger served as a tutor in political economy and statistics to Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, from 1876-1878. He also traveled with Rudolf throughout Europe to observe economic and social conditions. In 1879, Emperor Franz-Josef appointed Menger as Chair of Political Economy at the University of Vienna, and in 1879, Menger was promoted to rank of full professor. In 1883, he published Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics (Untersuchungen über die Methode der Socialwissenschaften, und der Politischen Oekonomie insbesondere), which precipitated the definition of the "Austrian School" of economic thought in opposition to the "Historical School" based in German academia.

Around 1888, Menger met author Hermine Andermann, with whom he would have a longstanding romantic partnership. The couple's son, Karl Menger, was born in 1902. Menger retired from teaching in 1903 at the age of 63, ostensibly to focus entirely on research. Between 1903 and his death in 1921, he produced copious notes and drafts, but did not produce a final theoretical work. Some of this material was incorporated by Karl into a posthumous second edition of Principles of Economics, published in 1923.

Acquisition information:
The Carl Menger papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as gifts from Eve L. Menger in 1987 and 2002.
Processing information:

Encoded by Alvin Pollock.

The original order of this collection is completely lost. Karl Menger had possession of the papers immediately after his father's death in 1921. He used much of the material now in the series on economic principles and some of the material from the series on money for the publication of a second edition of his father's best-known work, the Grundsätze der Volkswirthschaftslehre. A number of years later, Friedrich v. Hayek ordered a number of the folders containing notes and manuscripts; these numbers are visible in the outside upper left corner. He also occassionally made notes about the content of a particular folder, but none of these notes are extensive. In the 1970s, Albert Zlabinger was permitted access to some of the papers, primarily the material on money. His careful work and notations allow for the reconstruction of the development of Menger's article on money for the Handw"rterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, and its subsequent revisions.

Carl Menger did not date all, or even most, of his work, and because he made frequent emendations to his own notes and text, dating is hazardous at best. For this reason, all loose manuscript material has been arranged topically. Almost all material belonging to a particular folder, however, has been kept together. Original folders have been retained.

The only materials which lent themselves to something approximating original order are the bound notebooks, which Menger himself numbered. Correspondence has been arranged chronologically.

The majority of the paper in this collection has an extremely high acid content, although it is not overly brittle. Many sheets are badly crumpled, especially at the edges, but little text has been lost. All newspaper clippings have been photocopied on acid-free paper.


The Carl Menger papers are arranged into ten series: Notebooks, Notes on Economic Principles, Notes on Money, Teaching, Notes on Methodology, Correspondence, Biographical, Related Family Material, Miscellaneous, and Printed Material.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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[Identification of item], Carl Menger papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.