Barbara Solow

A friend just told me the very sad news that Barbara Solow passed away in February.

She wrote a classic book on Ireland, The Land Question and the Irish Economy, which has a good claim to being the first major cliometric work on Ireland — if by cliometric you mean economic history that is strongly informed by economic theory, and systematically uses data to back up the arguments being made. In more recent years she did terrific work on plantation slavery, which was very influential and certainly made a big impression on me. The last time I saw her was at a conference which she organised in Oxford a couple of years ago to commemorate Eric Williams, and she was as impressive as ever.

I can’t claim to have known her very well, but she was always very nice to me when I was a young Irish economic historian in Boston. She had a wonderful dry sense of humour, and produced one of the great acknowledgment footnotes of all time. Her death is a major loss for the profession, and my heart goes out to her family.

4 replies on “Barbara Solow”

The “Acknowledgement”

‘I would like to thank my sons, Andrew R. and John L. Solow, for assistance in producing the mathematical results, and my husband, Robert M. Solow, for assistance in producing the sons.’ Barbara Solow

I knew Bobby (as she was informally known) Solow very well, so this news comes as a big shock.
Her book–a classic and a revelation to students of Irish landlord-tenant relations– came out when I was a grad student. I remember contacting her and I still have her reply, but it was only in later years that we became what could be called good friends.
Bobby was extremely sharp and very witty and great company. The obituary refers to her great interest in baseball and her proclivity for gambling on American football. She got great fun out of it. She told me she tended to come out ahead, and that this came from studying form carefully.
She was a lifelong devotee of Anthony Trollope, and for the past decade and more she had been working on a monograph about his five Irish novels. On her trips to Ireland researching Trollope her husband Bob was very much the accompanying spouse and driver. He often claimed that she was brighter than he was.
On one trip Antoin Murphy of TCD organized admission to Trollope’s Dublin home in Donnybrook for the Solows and me, where the host treated her and Bob to some of wine from his own vineyard (Guess who?) and showed them his almost complete collection of Trollope first editions. It would be good if Bobby’s book saw the light of day: it is a great read.
It is sad to hear about the passing away of this feisty and formidable woman.

Comments are closed.