New Book on John Maynard Keynes Offers an Accessible and Engaging Introduction to the Famed Economist’s Life and Work

“Roger Backhouse’s Simply Keynes is simply the best brief account of Keynes’s thought and influence. Keynes was a man of parts and Backhouse draws those parts together to form a lucid and compelling portrait of the most influential economist of the 20th century.”
—Kevin Hoover, Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Duke University

John Maynard Keynes was an English economist whose radical ideas about the nature of free markets and the role of government in managing money fundamentally changed economic thinking and helped shape the modern world. In Simply Keynes, Professor Roger Backhouse examines Keynes’s paradoxical role as both a member of the establishment and a rebel against the orthodoxies of his day, and clearly explains how Keynes’s ideas developed, why they became so controversial, and, perhaps most importantly, how we should think about them today.

Born in Cambridge, England, to an upper-middle-class family, John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) attended Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge, where he received a BA in mathematics in 1904. From an early age, he evinced an optimism about improving human life and believed in the power of government to change things for the better. During World War I, Keynes served in the Treasury and his success in this role led to his appointment as a representative to the Versailles peace conference in 1919. While this experience was ultimately frustrating and disillusioning, it laid the foundation for his later work during the Great Depression and World War II, when his ideas gained increasing influence and were gradually adopted by economic policymakers throughout the world.

In Simply Keynes, Professor Roger Backhouse provides a comprehensive introduction to Keynes and Keynesianism, arguing that Keynes should be seen not only as an economist, but also as a moral philosopher who believed the state had a moral obligation to intervene for the greater good. Beginning with the economist’s early life and the context in which his ideas arose, Professor Backhouse chronicles the transformation of economics in the so-called “Age of Keynes,” the opposition that arose in the 1970s, and the revival of Keynesianism following the 2007-08 global financial crisis.

For 100 years, the ideas of John Maynard Keynes have been central to discussions and decision-making about economics, free markets, and the role of government in capitalist systems. With admirable concision and clarity, Simply Keynes allows the lay reader to understand not only the critical importance of Keynes’s ideas in recent history, but also their continued relevance in our own day and into the future.

John Maynard Keynes

The book has received advance praise from noted scholars from around the world. Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, Professor in Political Economy at the University of Rome says, “Roger Backhouse combines the skills of a historian with those of an economist, helping us ​to not only know Keynes, but also to learn about the development of macroeconomics from the demise of its ideas and their vindication in the post-COVID-19 world. ​​Non-specialists and specialists alike can appreciate this concise, but exhaustive, clear, and scholarly account of Keynes and Keynesianism and their relevance. It shows that Keynes is someone whose insights are still relevant ​and ​a more interesting thinker than much modern commentary gives him credit for.”

Mauro Boianovsky, Professor of Economics at the University of Brasília, points out that “Roger Backhouse’s sparkling account goes beyond biographical information, providing an enlightening history of the evolution of macroeconomic theory and policy from about 100 years until nowadays, as seen from the perspective of Keynes’ seminal contributions. Written in pleasant and accessible language, the book makes a complex history look simple, with its masterful blend of Keynes’ ideas, their origins, impact, and (sometimes critical) reception.”

And Steven G. Medema, Research Professor in the Department of Economics at Duke University says, “Keynes stands with Adam Smith and Karl Marx among history’s most influential economic thinkers but, like his illustrious predecessors, is often misunderstood by friend and foe alike. Roger Backhouse’s Simply Keynes provides an antidote via its engaging and eminently readable account of Keynes’s life, ideas, and impact on economic policymaking. From Versailles to Bretton Woods to modern policy debates, Backhouse shows us why Keynes mattered and continues to matter.”

“We are delighted with the excellent reviews the book has received from critics and are confident our readers will find it to be a fascinating and authoritative source of information about one of the 20th century’s most influential economists,” said Charles Carlini, Simply Charly’s CEO.

With its vivid portrait of life in 20th-century Europe—and the enormous social and political upheavals that provided the context for Keynes’ work—Simply Keynes is an invaluable overview of the life and times of the man whose revolutionary insights remain crucial for our understanding of central aspects of our world.

The Kindle edition is now available for purchase on Amazon at And print and audiobook editions will be available later in the year.

The book is part of a series that focuses on influential historical figures from diverse fields.

For more information and reviews, please visit

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