Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 83: Lionel Charles Robbins (1898–1984)
Lionel Charles Robbins was born in London in 1898. His education at the University College London was interrupted by World War I. He served in the Royal Artillery from 1916 to 1918. From 1920 to 1923 he studied at the London School of Economics (LSE). There he ran the Economics Department from 1929 to 1962 (with interceptions) after alternately lecturing at New College, Oxford and at the LSE from 1924 to 1929. Even after his retirement he remained associated with the LSE until 1980. He worked as an adviser to the British government in the aftermath of the Great Depression and his scientific career was interrupted only during World War II when he was director of the Economic Section of the British government. His tasks included the development and implementation of activities aiming at post-war recovery, and he also attended the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 as a member of the British delegation. In the post-war period Robbins influenced the British educational system as chairman of the Committee on Higher Education. He authored the Robbins Report (Committee on Higher Education 1963), where he stated the “Robbins Principle”: “courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment” (ibid.: 8). As an economist Lionel Robbins was interested in questions of economic theory, economic methodology and the history of economic thought. Within today’s economic community he is best known for his definition of economics in his Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science:...
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