John Murray | J. R. Hyde III Professor of Political Economy
Office: 225 Buckman Hall | Phone: (901) 843-3577 | Email:



To paraphrase Elvis, I teach all kinds. So far at Rhodes I have taught introductory economics, intermediate microeconomics, and senior seminar. This year (2013-14) I will teach Humanities 201 (Search) and ECON 323 (Classical and Marxian Political Economy. Next year, I will teach economic history. 


My research in economic history examines institutions for accumulating and transmitting human capital through time. These institutions typically must deal with problems of individual incentives that do not quite line up with efficient provision of collective goods. And yet, people often do discover ways to come close to efficient provision. 

My first book, Origins of American Health Insurance (Yale University Press, 2007) showed that early sickness insurance funds covered a large minority of the American working class, despite problems of moral hazard and adverse selection among their members, and despite the intense disdain in which Progressive activists held them. 





My latest book, The Charleston Orphan House (University of Chicago Press, 2013) is a history of poor white families in antebellum Charleston, their methods for getting by, and their interactions with the Orphan House. The Charleston Orphan House has been selected as the winner of the 2013 George C. Rogers Jr. Book Award, which is presented annually by the South Carolina Historical Society to the author of the best book of South Carolina history published during the preceding calendar year.

I am promiscuous in choice of research topics. With coauthors and by myself I am working on a variety of topics in American, European and Asian economic history, from about the mid-19c onwards. I hope to complete a sequel to my health insurance book in the next two to three years.

I was born and raised in an industrial suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. Neither of my parents went to college, so if you are a first generation college student and find this brave new world hard to read, please come in and let’s talk about it. My family enjoys bicycling and slackpacking throughout the region, from Village Creek State Park, Arkansas to Sipsey Wilderness, Alabama. My daughters love music and we have found that there is way more classical music happening in Memphis than we can keep up with.

Professor Murray′s Curriculum Vitae


B.A., Oberlin College
M.S., University of Cincinnati
M.A., Ph.D., The Ohio State University


ECON 100 - Introduction to Economics
ECON 201 - Intermediate Microeconomic Theory
ECON 323 - Classical and Marxian Political Economy
ECON 339 - Economic History
ECON 486 - Senior Seminar in Economics
HUM 201 - Search
PLEC 486 - Senior Seminar in Political Economy

Selected Publications

Co-edited with Ruth Wallis Herndon. Children Bound to Labor: The Pauper Apprentice System in Early America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009.

Child labor and social class in the American South. In Peggy G. Hargis, Larry J. Griffin, and James G. Thomas, Jr., editors, New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, volume 21: Social Class. University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

(with Werner Troesken) African-American labor supply after Reconstruction: added worker effects in urban families, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 44 (2013): 181-208.