There are two main approaches to the use of textbooks in the history of recent economics. One approach consists in seeing textbooks as repositories of past knowledge and in using them as shortcuts to retrace changes in the discipline. Another perspective, favored by science studies inflected historians, emphasizes their more active role in these changes and explores the context in which they have been produced. This quick survey focuses on the uses of Paul Samuelson's introductory textbook Economics in order to shed lights on the benefits and pitfalls of each of these lines of historical inquiry.

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