Consistent with the mandate under the 1946 Act of Parliament establishing the Australian National University, the Department (then simply called the Department of Economics) was founded in 1962. Its inaugural Head and Professor of Economics was Sir John Crawford, who also served as Director of the then Research School of Pacific Studies.
The department’s academic raison d’etre was unique in Australia: to study the ‘underdeveloped and primitive economies, with emphasis on the building up of a systematic empirical knowledge of the Pacific and South East Asia’. Initial work focused mainly on the Commonwealth economies and territories, including the then Malaya and Territory of Papua New Guinea.
Owing to Sir John’s many other responsibilities, Professor H.W. Arndt was appointed Head of Department in 1963. He initiated a wide program of economic research on the Asia Pacific economies, including China, India, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. This included establishment of the Indonesia Project within the Department and publication, from June 1965, of the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies.
Professor Max Corden became Head of the Department in 1980, strengthening the Department’s research on international economics. He was followed by Professor R. M. Sundrum, Dr Colin Barlow, Professor Ross Garnaut, Professor Warwick McKibbin, Professor Hal Hill, Professor Peter Warr, Professor Raghbendra Jha, Professor Jenny Corbett, Professor Jeff Bennett, Professor Ligang Song, and Professor Paul Burke. The name Arndt-Corden Department of Economics (ACDE) was adopted in 2008 in recognition of the pioneering work of two of the Department’s early leaders, Professor H.W. Arndt and Professor Max Corden.
Since its founding the Department has trained a large number of PhD students. This community has become an influential network of scholars, officials and development practitioners around the world, and especially in the Asia-Pacific.
An important offshoot from the Department was the Development Studies Centre, subsequently the National Centre for Development Studies led by Professor Helen Hughes, later to become the Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, led by Professor Ron Duncan, and now the Crawford School of Public Policy. ACDE now forms the economics grouping within the Crawford School of Public Policy.