Spoilt for Transatlantic choice

International Economics. Fourth Edition - International Economics. Seventh Edition - International Economics
June 1, 2001

There is no shortage of good textbooks for students taking international economics to choose from and there is tough competition to secure the student market. Two of these books - Dominick Salvatore's and Dennis Appleyard and Alfred Field's International Economics - are of American origin and are later editions of already well-established texts. Kevin Lawler and Hamid Seddighi's International Economics: Theories, Themes and Debates is a new entrant at the British end that offers an interesting break with the more conventional approach adopted by the others.

The two American texts are more voluminous and comprehensive in their coverage of the subject matter, with a broadly equal split between international trade and monetary economics. Lawler and Seddighi major more on international trade and production issues and explicitly eschew any attempt to investigate the monetary side.

Salvatore's text is one of the market leaders in the United States and continues to provide excellent coverage of the trade and monetary aspects of economics. As in previous editions, the book is well laid out with clear diagrams, rigorous exposition of theoretical models, good use of boxes, plentiful case studies and a helpful summary and "look ahead" section at the end of each chapter. In addition to the updating of material to include developments since the last publication, the new edition contains some other useful improvements. The number of case studies has been increased, a new internet section has been added at the end of each chapter with a list of websites and a new website created for users of the text. These improvements will go a long way to increasing the appeal of the book and further increasing its share of the global market. The book provides stud-ents of international economics with excellent value for money, although British students will find the book hard to get through in a single semester.

Appleyard and Field's text is similar in style. However, being less well established, it may struggle to offer anything significantly different from the large number already available. Like Salvatore, it provides excellent, comprehensive and rigorous treatment of the major principles of international economics, with plentiful case studies, good use of boxes, concept checks at points in each chapter and end-of-chapter questions and problems. The two texts are broadly equivalent in terms of the analytical demands that they place on the reader. However, Salvatore may be marginally less verbose, with a better use of diagrams than Appleyard and Field and this may give it the edge for students seeking a text of this kind.

American texts, however, tend to sell less well in the United Kingdom. In part, this is because the semester structure of most British universities offers less room for fully fledged courses in international economics of the kind that were to be found 20 years ago. Instead, trade and investment issues are often taught separately from monetary and financial principles. This is partly because greater emphasis is placed on the application of principles to international economic relationships and contemporary policy issues. Students increasingly require books that will provide them with a theoretical framework for analysing and understanding contempor-ary economic events.

Lawler and Seddighi's text is an interesting attempt to break the mould and write a book that is genuinely different. For this, they should be applauded. Not to disappoint the traditionalists, it contains a good coverage of basic classical and neo-classical trade theory. This is supplemented with a number of chapters looking at contemporary themes from a policy angle. These include the power of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries in the world oil market, the growth of the new regionalism and the conflict with multilateralism, trade and development of the Asian "tigers", the problems of transitional economies and problems of European monetary union.

Although the book does not attempt to provide a rigorous coverage of open-economy macroeconomics, it nevertheless contains a useful section on exchange-rate determination and volatility. Unlike more conventional texts that tend to treat trade and investment as isolated processes, Lawler and Seddighi devote about one quarter of the book to the theme of globalisation, in which the relationship between trade and investment is explored in specific industrial and country settings. MBA students will find this approach especially helpful.

There is much in this book that is very appealing and I suspect that it will get widely used. However, the narrower focus might deter some lecturers looking for a core text to recommend to students. The lack of material on matters of international trade policy (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organisation get only a mention) weakens the book's usefulness.

Lecturers and students alike will have a difficult task in choosing between these three new offerings in international economics. Given the existence of such a large number of other excellent European and American texts, publishers will find it hard to secure a sizeable share of the market for their own individual brands. However, better too much choice than too little.

Nigel Grimwade is head of economics and finance, South Bank University.

International Economics. Fourth Edition

Author - Dennis R. Appleyard and Alfred J. Field Jr
ISBN - 0 07 231514 8 and 118101 6
Publisher - McGraw-Hill
Price - £86.99 and £33.99
Pages - 752

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