In 1921 when Professor Vakil headed the Bombay School of Economics and Sociology most of the present generation of Indian economists (even senior ones) were unborn. Like John Matthai he was one of the earliest Indian products of the London School of Economics in its formative years, when its intellectual atmosphere was flavoured by the Fabian left. Oxford and Cambridge barely recognized its advent. The late Dr. Radhakrishnan once recalled how John Matthai, after taking his D.Sc. from the LSE, sought admission for the B. Litt. at Balliol, Oxford. The then Master of Balliol, A.D. Lindsay, agreed to take him on one condition—that he will not tell anyone in Oxford that he had a doctorate from the LSE.
Yet this attitude was hardly justified. Neither Oxford nor the LSE had contributed a distinctive stand to economic thought till much later, and the corpus of classical economic thought came from the Cambridge of Marshall, Pigou and young Keynes, especially Marshall. Marshall’s Indian students who held academic posts (Jehangir Coyajee, N.S. Subba Rao and others) were fading out, and if Vakil’s economic thought as seen in these books must be identified, it is in terms of the Cambridge school in neoclassical economics. In economic analysis as a guide to public policy he has also wisely steered clear of the extreme right in European economic thought as represented by the twin Teutonic apostles of it, Hayek and von Mises. In one like Vakil whose work was seminal in building economic institutions and guiding the work of several generations of Indian economists, this steady ‘centrism’ of economic thought was indeed valuable.