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 examine how imperial and colonial experience and expertise impacted the domestic British state in the first half of the 20th century, with particular attention to the history of economic thinking and economic life.