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This note outlines essential elements for reconstructing the intellectual route followed by Piero Sraffa on the basis of archival documents dating from the second half of the 1920s. These documents highlight Sraffa’s interest in Marx’s lack of success in linking his theoretical contribution to the reconstruction of its precedents in the history of political economy. Archival documents illustrate the formative phase of Sraffa’s scientific programme and show his intention to build a new theory starting from its premises in the history of economic analysis. Sraffa’s subsequent abandonment of the historical-analytical approach confirms Luigi Pasinetti’s view that Sraffa had to shelve an initial programme of great vastity and ambition to reduce it within feasible limits, of which his ‘equations’ are a characteristic feature.