University of Gothenburg

Martin Shanahan

Visiting Professor of Economic History from School of Commerce, University of South Australia

Techniques to hinder competitive markets are not new, as history shows.

Professional biography

I am Professor of Economic and Business History in the School of Business at the University of South Australia. I hold honours degrees in economics, politics and law (all from Australian universities) and my research focuses on Australian economic and business history and comparative studies. My PhD on wealth distribution was awarded the Butlin Prize in economic history in Australia and New Zealand.
I co-edited the Australian Economic History Review for a decade and I am currently a board member of Business History, the Australian Economic History Review and the International Review of Economic Education. I have served on the executive of the International Economic History Association and I am the immediate past President of the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand.

What are your main research interests?

My main research interest is motivated at looking at how through history, institutions (both formal and informal) have influenced economic outcomes for individuals and regions. For example, examining the influence of cartels, and how governments respond to their efforts to inhibit competition has been a recent focus of study. Similarly market structures influence who ‘wins’ and who ‘loses’ when resources are allocated – for example how water ( a scarce resource in Australia) is allocated between agriculture and cites; or how certain groups in society benefit from market opportunities while others do not.

How does your research have influence beyond the academic world? Does this include any roles you have beyond the academy?

My work has been used in a Royal Commission on child abuse (presenting estimates of the costs and benefits of offender rehabilitation programs) and I have submitted evidence to parliamentary enquiries in Australia on labour market policies. While only one of many contributions to the enquiries, they did contribute research-based evidence that ultimately shaped policy outcomes.

Is teaching still a significant part of your working life? What particular method or approach would you say characterises your teaching?

Definitely. I have a long-standing interest in teaching (especially economics) and work that I undertook with colleagues that identified first-year students at risk of failure, has been published in several journals and received an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Award for Teaching Excellence. I have also published on students’ conceptions of research and their understanding of threshold concepts in economics. I currently teach both undergraduate and post-graduate courses and I have a particular interest in how students learn economics.

What specific passions or concerns particularly inspire you in your work?

Universities have a responsibility to improve the world – so there is always a lot of work to do! Our research and teaching influences current and future generations and we have a responsibility to undertake this work to the best of our ability. We also have a responsibility to undertake our research without fear or favour and to present our considered opinions based on careful study of the evidence.

Which of your publications would you regard as the most significant and why?

Most recently, the publication that perhaps has been most significant in its social impact was a multi-authored publication on the role of water markets in facilitating adaption to climate change in Australia. Academically, my more important contributions examined the distribution of wealth in South Australia in the late 19th and early 20th century, revealing the real extent of inequality compared to other nations, and the links between the state and the United Kingdom that influenced this outcome. More recently, work with Gothenburg colleagues examining the extent of cartels and how they were regulated has helped break down the view that every nation was somehow special in its response to cartels.

What are you particularly hoping to achieve during your time as a Visiting Professor in Gothenburg?

I will be continuing a long-term collaboration with colleagues in economic history examining cartels and cartel regulation in multiple countries and the institutional frameworks that influenced them. We hope this will result in at least one book and more journal articles. I also hope to undertake some new research, again in economic history, examining the beef-cattle industry in Australia and its international trade links with the rest of the world.


Would you like to meet Martin and/or have an idea for future cooperation?
Send an email to his contact person at the School: Susanna Fellman
Or visit his home university website!

Martin Shanahan
Martin Shanahan

Focus areas

  • cartel regulation
  • markets
  • income distribution
  • water


The Elof Hansson Foundation