Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 37: Walter Bagehot (1826–1877)
Walter Bagehot (1826–1877) was an English banker, journalist and essayist. He was 18 years old when Parliament passed the 1844 Bank Charter Act. He studied mathematics in London, obtained a master’s degree in 1848 and joined his father’s bank in 1852. In 1857 he published his first article in the influential newspaper, The Economist, which was founded by James Wilson, his father-in-law and a supporter of the Banking School. In 1861, Bagehot became editor of The Economist. Bagehot is famous for his book on law and politics, The English Constitution, published in 1867. The second and revised edition (1872) became a classic. In 1873 he published a second book that would also become a classic, but in the field of economics: Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market. In 1876–77, Bagehot proposed the creation of the “Treasury Bill”: a new kind of public debt that would be more liquid and consequently less expensive. Bagehot died in March 1877. He was in the process of writing a book on British political economy. The unfinished manuscript was published in 1880 as Economic Studies. As an economist, Bagehot’s formative years were characterised by the controversy between the Banking and the Currency Schools. When he was 22 years old, in 1848, he published two articles in the Prospective Review. One concerned the rules governing the issue of banknotes enacted by the 1844 banking reform; Bagehot argued in favour of the currency principle, but approved the 1847 suspension of the rules. The...
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