Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 19: David Ricardo (1772–1823)
Life and Work Ricardo was born into a prolific Sephardic Jewish family in London on 18 April 1772. His father, a well-to-do stockbroker, had moved his business from Amsterdam to London shortly before David’s birth. Ricardo was for the most part privately instructed. According to a memoir written by his brother Moses, David already at a young age “showed a taste for abstract and general reasoning” (Ricardo 1951–73, X: 4; hereafter Works). This taste he refined over time. As one commentator was to remark in 1820, Ricardo “meets you upon every subject that he has studied with . . . opinions in the nature of mathematical truths” (Works VIII: 152, n. 2). At the age of 14, David joined his father’s business and assumed a profound knowledge of the financial trade and the London Exchange. On 20 December 1793, at the age of 21, he married Priscilla Ann Wilkinson, an English Quaker. His mother especially, adamantly opposed this marriage and his parents fell out with him. Ricardo, depending on himself, started a career at the Stock Exchange on his own. He benefited from the support of important members of the London Exchange and soon became more successful than his father. He acquired great recognition in the profession and was widely considered with admiration not only because of his skills and knowledge, but also because of his personal integrity and reliability. From a financial point of view, his best year was 1815. Four days before the battle of Waterloo on 18 June, the...
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