Current research on business cycles has focused on the post-war period. The aim has been to derive the main ‘stylised facts’ of fluctuations. The approach here is very different. The emphasis is on the need for an historical perspective to business cycles. History inevitably provides us with a broader empirical basis that will allow us to formulate more general theoretical and empirical questions. It is argued that to focus on explaining the stylised facts of any one historical period to gain a general insight on economic fluctuations will lead to serious errors of interpretation.