Entrepreneurship as an academic subject has existed for about 300 years. During the first 250 years or so, only economists were interested in the subject. Entrepreneurship has, however, never been part of mainstream economics. It might be of some interest to bring up four classical researchers from a time when only economists were interested in entrepreneurship, and to present their ideas of what entrepreneurship is all about. The reason is that their ideas are still with us, somehow. They are Richard Cantillon (1680–1734), Jean Baptiste Say (1767–1832), Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950) and Israel Kirzner (b. 1930). Richard Cantillon, an Irish banker, who most of the time worked in Paris, was the first to give the concept of entrepreneurship an analytical content. In his book Essai sur la nature du commerce en general, which was published posthumously in 1755, the entrepreneur was given an acknowledged role in economic development. Richard Cantillon, like most economists after him, was mainly interested in the entrepreneurial function and not so much in the entrepreneur as a person. He felt that the entrepreneurial function was to take risks in the sense that the entrepreneurs buy at given prices without knowing which prices will prevail later when sales are made. This approach sees the entrepreneur as something of a trader. The French economist Jean Baptiste Say (1855) made a distinction between three economic activities in a society: (1) research that generates new knowledge, (2) entrepreneurship that applies this new knowledge and (3) workers that are involved in production.
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