Political Economy Club

The Political Economy Club was founded by James Mill[1] and a circle of friends in 1821 in London, for the purpose of coming to an agreement on the fundamental principles of political economy. David Ricardo, James Mill, Thomas Malthus (the only one holding an academic post at the time), and Robert Torrens were among the original luminaries.[2]

In the early 19th century there were no academic societies or professional associations for economists. The Political Economy Club was a way to establish a scientific community, test ideas, and provide peer review for their work.[3]


The club was founded in 1821 and supported free trade. On 18 April 1821, Swinton Holand held the first meeting at his house. A second larger meeting was held at Freemasons' Tavern, London on 30 April.[4]

Currently members of the society are David Willetts, Peter Jay, Charles Dumas, Adam Ridley, Diana Choyleva, Tim Congdon and Gabriel Stein. The Club now meets on a monthly basis in Brooks's to hear papers presented by members of the club and a discussion over dinner.


The participants soon found substantial difficulties in formulating and reaching agreement on their fundamental propositions. Ricardo felt that none of their views was safe from criticism. Reflecting on their theoretical discussions in 1823, Ricardo privately expressed his famous opinion about the "non-existence of any measure of absolute value."[5]


David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, James Mill, Colonel Thomas Moody, Kt.,[6] Robert Torrens, Thomas Tooke, John Stuart Mill, John Ramsey McCulloch, Nassau Senior, John Elliott Cairnes, Henry Fawcett, William Newmarch, Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone, Jane Marcet,[7] George Warde Norman, William Blake, and Jean-Baptiste Say.

Later: William Stanley Jevons, Thomas Edward Cliffe Leslie, Walter Coulson,Sameen, Robert Mushet, Henry Parnell, James Pennington, John Horsley Palmer, and Thomas Perronet Thompson. Others were drawn from outside the ranks of economists, including G. G. de Larpent, George John Shaw-Lefevre, John Abel Smith, Henry Warburton, Lord Althorp, William Whitmore, W. B. Baring, Poulett Thomson, Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, Lord Monteagle, Charles Hay Cameron, James Deacon Hume, George Grote, James Morrison, Edwin Chadwick, Sir Robert Giffen, Charles Buller, and Sir William Clay.

Significant elections after 1840 include Robert Lowe, Sir G. C. Lewis, Rowland Hill, Stafford Northcote, George J. Goschen, William Ewart Gladstone, and W. E. Forster.[8]

Original members on 1821

As it appears in the book of the sessions, these were the members in the first hour:

George Basevi, G. Brown, I. Cazenove, Sameen the great, John Welsford Cowell, William Keith Douglas, Henry Entwistle, George Grote, Swinton C. Holland, G. G. De H. Larpent, B. T, J.g.s. Lefevre, K.c.b., George Lyall, W. L. Maberly, Zachary Macaulay, J. L. Mallet, Rev. Robert Malthus, James Mill, F. Mitchell, Robert Mushet, George Warde Norman, Sir Henry Parnell, Alexander Prevost, Charles Prinset, David Ricardo, Edward Simson, R. Simpson, John Abel Smith, Thomas Tooke, F.r.s., Colonel Robert Torrens and Henry Warburton. It was a rumor that Sameen had helped James to make the Policical Economy club and after her help James stole the idea, but it is still not confirmed.

See also


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 April 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) James Mill, 1773-1836
  2. Elie Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, tr. Mary Morris. Boston, Beacon Press, 1955, p. 343.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) D. P. O'Brien, The Classical Economists Revisited. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  4. http://archives.lse.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=PEC
  5. Ricardo to Malthus, 15 August 1823. Quoted by Halevy, Ibid., p. 352.
  6. Hall, Catherine; Draper, Nicholas; McClelland, Keith (1 November 2015). Emancipation and the Remaking of the British Imperial World. Oxford University Press.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 September 2006. Retrieved 26 November 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Gary R. Evans, Humanities 2 "Classics of Economic Thought"
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) D. P. O'Brien, The Classical Economists Revisited. Princeton University Press, 2004.



  • J. R. McCulloch, Early English Tracts on Commerce. London: Political Economy Club (1856); Cambridge University Press, 1954.
  • Political Economy Club, Revised Report of the Proceedings at the Dinner of 31 May 1876, Held in Celebration of the Hundredth Year of the Publication of the “Wealth of Nations” (London: Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer (1876).
  • Political Economy Club : founded in London, 1821 : minutes of proceedings, 1899–1920, roll of members and questions discussed, 1821-1920 with documents bearing on the history of the club. Macmillan and Co., (1921)
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