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Tributes to CAGE Founding Director Professor Nick Crafts

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Tributes to CAGE Founding Director Professor Nick Crafts

  • CAGE is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our founding Director, Professor Nick Crafts.
  • Professor Crafts died on 6 October 2023 after a long illness. He was one of the world’s leading economic historians, who will leave an enduring legacy.
  • A book of condolence is open for any colleagues who wish to share reflections or memories. The book will be made available to the Crafts family.
  • To send a message of condolence please visit the online form here.

In 2010 Professor Crafts became the founding Director of the CAGE research centre, an ESRC-funded centre. During his 10 years as Director he oversaw the development of the Centre into a vibrant research community and personally contributed a large amount of impactful and policy-relevant research.

Nick's pioneering work on British economic growth in the Industrial Revolution made his early reputation. He became a specialist in the long-run sources of economic improvement in many regions. His insights into 20th century British economic history were widely sought by policymakers and his CV includes spells consulting for HM Treasury, the IMF and the World Bank.

Professor Crafts began his long association with the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick in its first decade, joining as a lecturer in 1972. While his career took him to a number of prestigious UK and US institutions, he rejoined Warwick as Professor of Economic History in 1988 and returned again in 2006. He retired from Warwick in 2019, moving to Brighton to be nearer his family and taking up a part-time position at the University of Sussex.

He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1992 and awarded the CBE for services to Economics in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, 2014. In 2022 Professor Crafts was made a Fellow of the Economic History Association. In 2022-23 he served as President of the Royal Economic Society.

Professor Mirko Draca, who succeeded Professor Crafts as Director of CAGE, comments:

“Nick was a phenomenon. Intellectually-driven rather than career-driven, able to move between the big picture and small picture with ease, unflaggingly energetic, down-to-earth, shrewd, streetwise, really damn clever and, at a personal level, thoughtfully humane. I will miss him so much."

Professor Sascha Becker worked closely with Professor Crafts during his time as Director of CAGE. He wrote:

"Nick Crafts' death makes me incredibly sad. We spent nearly a decade together "running" CAGE at the Warwick Department of Economics as Director and deputy.

"Nick was born in the same year as my father, but from day one he treated me as his equal. We met or corresponded pretty much daily.

"Nick was such a wise man. A non-tribal economic historian. He was broad-minded and hugely respected by economists and policy makers alike. When he talked, the room listened.

"Witty, kind, wise.
"I will dearly miss you, Nick

CAGE Research Director Professor Bishnupriya Gupta writes:

"Nick Crafts brought to economic history new ideas, new ways to think of old questions. As a colleague, mentor and friend, Nick was an inspiration to me and many others and helped us to grow as economic historians. He will be missed."

CAGE Impact Director Professor Dennis Novy writes:

"Nick was the rare scholar you could truly look up to and respect. He was a towering figure in economics and a wonderful colleague. This is a big loss for our profession and beyond. We will sorely miss him."

Dame Frances Cairncross, Chair of the CAGE Advisory Board, writes:

"Nick Crafts was one of the most thoughtful and innovative economists of the past half century. His work to unite history with economics gave his work a depth and originality that few economists of his generation achieved. Warwick was lucky to have him for as long as it did."

Tributes to Professor Crafts from CAGE members follow:

Professor Wiji Arulampalam writes:

"The passing of Nick came as a terrible shock to me. I came to know him when he joined the department. Although I did not work closely with him, I have attended many seminars where he had been either presenting or was in the audience. He always makes pertinent points. He was an immense scholar and I always valued his opinions. As the Chair of the department, he was always very professional and treated everyone fairly and equally. He will be very much missed."

Dr Yannick Dupraz, Research Assistant Professor at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) based at the Aix-Marseille School of Economics (AMSE), writes:

"I will remember Professor Nick Crafts as an amazingly kind and generous mentor. He always took time to discuss research with me, and his insights were always so useful, even though I was working on a field, African economic history, a little bit far from his expertise (but was any field of economic history really far from his expertise?) Nick Crafts did so much for CAGE, for Warwick University, and for economics and economic history."

Professor James Fenske writes:

"I am saddened to learn of Nick's passing. I knew of him as an undergraduate, and I have known him since I was a PhD student. He had a major influence on my thinking - and the thinking of the whole profession - on some of the most important questions in economic history. He was a generous colleague and inspired multiple generations of students to take interest in our shared field."

Emeritus Professor Peter J Hammond writes:

"Nick's extensive publications make him a giant in economic history, with special emphasis on Britain and Europe. But not being a historian myself, I was much less aware of the details than I should have been. Around the time when I arrived at Warwick in 2007, Nick was an Associate Chair of the department. He was also working hard on securing funding for CAGE, as he was about to become its founding director. Like many, perhaps even most members of the department, CAGE has helped finance some of my research. From 2006 to 2009 he chaired Section S2 (Economics and Economic History) of the British Academy which, from my personal experience, he left in very good shape when he stepped down. Of course, I met Nick frequently until he moved to Sussex quite recently. He always greeted me with a broad smile that was usually followed by some light hearted and enjoyable conversation. So, while others will properly recognize the excellent quality and quantity of Nick's academic output, including his prolific lecturing activity, my main awareness of Nick stems from his tremendous contributions as an administrator. There he seemed to achieve some sort of ideal where the important things got done, and done very well, with no doubt a lot of work on his part, but with almost no fuss that was discernible by those not directly involved. Nick, you have finally completed all your administrative burdens; may you rest in peace."

Emeritus Professor Mark Harrison remembers a valued colleague and friend:

“Nick and I must have met in 1967 -- we were in the same year as undergraduates (but in different colleges, and at that stage I did not know him well). Then he was a colleague at Warwick, several times, because he kept leaving and coming back (he often referred to himself as a repeat Warwick recidivist).

“As a colleague he was a steadying influence and a voice of reason, something that I linked with his inclination to take the long view in economic history. At least twice, I am sure, he gave me advice that made a difference.

“One thing I missed after Nick left for Brighton (or since the pandemic, which must have been roughly the same time) was being able to drop by his office and find out what he thought about the world. He was always sensible, and usually very funny. Anyway, I owe him a lot."

Professor Tim Hatton, Professor of Economics at the University of Essex, writes:

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news that Nick has passed away. He was an incredible scholar and a huge influence on many of us. I first met him when we both arrived at Warwick in 1972, him as a lecturer and me as a first year student. He was my personal tutor. We got on well and he persuaded me to take his second year course on the Industrial Revolution. The course material was simply a five-page single spaced reading list. His lecturing style was magnetic and, with wry humour, he expertly dissected the literature. It was a revelation and a road map to making sense of the diverse and sometimes turgid texts. He had an amazing command of the subject—just three years out from his undergraduate degree! (Something that really came home to me some years later when I tried to teach it myself). It was compelling stuff, and he is the main reason that I followed a career in economic history. He will be sorely missed."

Dr Eric Melander, Assistant Professor in Economics at the University of Birmingham, writes:

"'Please, Nick, show us another growth accounting table', I hear you say." For reasons unknown to me, these words, said tongue-in-cheek in a first-year undergraduate economic history lecture, are among my most vivid memories of Nick. Though said in passing, to me they encapsulate Nick's greatness: his wealth of knowledge on the big questions that really matter and his unfailing wit. I have benefited greatly from Nick's wisdom and generous advice. He will be missed."

Professor Robin Naylor said:

"I knew Nick from 1981 at University College Oxford and, with David Miles, took over his college tutoring role for a year when Nick was on sabbatical leave.

"Warwick Economics has benefitted greatly from Nick's academic work and profile, and from his leadership roles in the Department, both through CAGE and, prior to that, as Chair.

"Nick had a most remarkable intellect, and was very much one of a kind. He - and not least that knowing glint in his eye (half challenging, half conspiratorial) - will be much missed."

Professor Andrew Oswald writes:

"Nick was wonderfully likeable. He treated me well from the very start of my time at Warwick, for which I was terribly grateful, and so often he had that penetrating intellect and smiling (occasionally almost impish) cheeriness that I always valued and I will always remember. He made a tremendous contribution during his life -- particularly to our Department.

Professor Nuno Palma, Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester, writes:

"I had many interactions with Nick over the years, and learned a lot from him. He was always cheerful and supportive, and will be remembered as one of the greats of his generation."

Dr Claudia Rei writes:

"I arrived at Warwick shortly before Nick retired, but I’ve known his work ever since I learned Economic History was a field within Economics. The profession has lost one of its greatest minds."

Professor Daniel Sgroi writes:

"As an undergraduate in the early 1990s, I studied Nick’s brilliant reinterpretation of British economic growth. Years later it was with considerable excitement that I joined the faculty at Warwick and finally met Nick in person. Nick fulfilled all of my expectations and more: not only was he clearly brilliant but his wisdom and kindness proved invaluable over the years that followed. Nick welcomed me into CAGE, supported my work and provided me with a constant source of invaluable advice. The world will be a dimmer place without him, but Nick’s work remains pioneering and essential, and many generations to come will benefit from the trail that he blazed."

Emeritus Professor Mike Waterson writes:

"Nick was a man of great intelligence and also great wisdom, a rare and valuable combination of qualities."

Professor Nikolaus Wolf, Professor of Economics and Economic History at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, writes:

"Nick was like a rock to me and to many others: extremely witty and successful yet unpretentious, honest and down-to-earth. You could simply rely on him. As a person and by his work Nick Crafts convinced many fellow economists and policy-makers that economic history has something to say - and that it is even fun to listen."

CAGE Centre staff have also shared their condolences:

CAGE Project Manager Jane Snape writes:

"Nick possessed a remarkable ability to make all team members feel valued. I will miss his knowledge, kindness and sense of humour. My thoughts are with Barbara and family."

Former CAGE Research Manager Fiona Brown writes:

"I worked with Nick for 10 years or so on CAGE. They were good times. He was an inspiring director who, together with Sascha, had the foresight to develop CAGE into a leading ESRC research centre. A kind and thoughtful man who always had time to listen and encourage. I am so sorry to hear of his death and send my condolences to Barbara and his family. RIP Nick."

Former CAGE Centre co-ordinator Helen Knight writes:

"I am so very sorry to hear of Nick's passing. He was a wonderful Director to work with - patient, wise and kind. He made me feel valued as a member of CAGE, and supported the development of my career by encouraging me to take opportunities to learn, travel and experience the world of academia. I will be forever grateful for my time working with him. My sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues."

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