Richard Sutch was Distinguished Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at the University of California-Riverside and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He began his academic career at Berkeley in 1967 and concluded it there, returning after a decade at UC-Riverside. In between he spent a year visiting Cal Tech.
Sutch was an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where he was influenced by Douglass North. He completed his Ph.D. at MIT in 1968 and participated in the Harvard economic history seminar run by Alexander Gerschenkron, which included EHA Fellows Richard Sylla, Peter Temin, and Deirdre (nee Donald) McCloskey.
He credits the Gerschenkron seminar for influencing his approach to economic history. It was a dialog with the objective of mutual persuasion, stressing the importance of keeping historical analysis simple and clear. In order to persuade, the simplest possible theories and the most basic statistics should be the starting point. He believed arguments were won with dazzling ideas, not obfuscation with fancy footwork.
In 1986 he became the second recipient of the Clio Can, awarded for lifetime service. He was president of the Economic History Association, and the International Economic History Association. He was a Ford Faculty Research Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow.
He also served as director of the Institute of Business and Economic Research at UC-Berkeley and the Center for Social and Economic Policy at UC-Riverside. He was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and Distinguished Lecturer, and a Japan-US Friendship Commission Visiting Distinguished Scholar.
He was the author or editor of numerous books, including two major tomes on the economic history of slavery. One Kind of Freedom, with Roger Ransom (EHA Fellow, class of 2019), was originally published in 1977. A second edition, with a new forward, epilogue, and updated bibliography, was published in 2001. In 1976, along with Paul David, Herb Gutman, Peter Temin and Gavin Wright, he edited Reckoning with Slavery, a critical response to Fogel and Engerman’s Time on the Cross. His interest in slavery stemmed from his economic history seminar paper written under North, which was published in the Southern Economic Journal while he was still an undergraduate.
Richard Sutch passed away on September 19, 2019, just days after being inducted into the Economic History Association’s inaugural class of Fellows.