Lessons from a very productive economic historian: “Get it done and get it out”

I’m reading Greg Prince’s biography of economic historian Leonard Arrington. Early on, one of his mentees reports, “One of the lessons that Leonard taught me was to get it done and get it out.”

Arrington’s massive bibliography evidences that he followed his own advice. David Whittaker compiled the 35 page bibliography for the Journal of Mormon History, including 259 “articles in professional publications and chapters in books,” and more than 35 books, 68 articles in non-professional publications, and many reviews.*

Here’s a little sample:


Arrington had amazing concentration: “When he got to the point that he was ready to write the article, he would go down into that office and stay there for 72 hours. His wife would bring him food.” Now, Arrington didn’t contribute equally to every one of these articles. “Not everyone agreed with the division of labor, with some feeling that Leonard’s name appeared at times when his contribution wasn’t sufficient to merit co-authorship…. ‘Of course, that wasn’t unusual for people who were the head of that kind of thing [the historical department he led].'”

But he got those papers out!

As Linda Ginzel at the University of Chicago writes, “If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.” And as Raul Pachego-Vega writes for the Twitter crowd, #GetYourManuscriptOut.

I’d better get back to writing.

* For books, I took the “books, monographs, and pamphlets” section of his bibliography and counted everything over 100 pages.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s