Ian Kumekawa is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department. He obtained his MPhil at the University of Cambridge in 2013 and his A.B. at Harvard College in 2012. His work focuses on the history of economic thinking and imperial statecraft in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
His book, The First Serious Optimist (Princeton University Press, 2017) examines the intellectual origins of welfare economics, focusing specifically on its founder, Cambridge economist A.C. Pigou (1877-1959). Pigou was one of the twentieth century's most important and original thinkers. Though long overshadowed by his intellectual rival John Maynard Keynes, he was instrumental in focusing economics on the public welfare and his reputation is experiencing a well-deserved renaissance today, in part because his idea of "externalities" or spillover costs is the basis of carbon taxes. The First Serious Optimist tells how Pigou reshaped the way the public thinks about the economic role of government and the way economists think about the public good. It was co-awarded the 2017 Joseph J. Spengler Best Book Prize from the History and Economics Society. You can read the introduction here.
Kumekawa's dissertation, tentatively entitled The Imperialization of the British State, will explore the ways in which the British state was transformed by imperial experience in the years leading up to the creation of the postwar welfare state. It will examine how imperial and colonial knowledge and administrative expertise undergirded the expansion of state capacity. The story of the growth of the British state in the 20th century has traditionally been centered around demands: the demands of wartime mobilization, the demands made by organized labor, and the demands for better housing, health, and economic stability. Meeting such demands required political shifts as well as the exploitation of many resources, but it also required the expansion of administrative capacity and expertise. My project suggests that much of that expertise was imperial in origin. The state's ability to fulfil new duties in the 20th century depended in no small part on the experience of imperial rule.