William Cunningham (economist)

William Cunningham FBA (1849–1919) was a British economist and Anglican priest. He was an eminent economic historian, a proponent of the historical method in economics, and an opponent of free trade.

William Cunningham

Born(1849-12-29)29 December 1849
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died10 June 1919(1919-06-10) (aged 69)
Cambridge, England
Alma mater
Known forFounding economic history
Scientific career
InstitutionsKing's College London
Harvard University
University of Cambridge


Cunningham was born on 29 December 1849 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Educated at Edinburgh Institution, Edinburgh Academy and University and Trinity College, Cambridge, he graduated BA in 1873, having gained a first class in the moral science tripos.[1] In the same year took holy orders, later serving as chaplain of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1880 to 1891. He was university lecturer in history from 1884 to 1891, in which year he was appointed Tooke Professor of Economy and Statistics at King's College London, a post which he held until 1897. He was lecturer in economic history at Harvard University (1899), and Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge (1885). He became vicar of Great St Mary's, Cambridge, in 1887, and was made a fellow of the British Academy. In 1907 he was appointed archdeacon of Ely.[2]

Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce during the Early and Middle Ages (1890; 4th ed., 1905) and Growth of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times (1882; 3rd ed., 1903) are among the standard works of reference on the industrial history of England.

Cunningham's eminence as an economic historian gave special importance to his support of Joseph Chamberlain from 1903 onwards in criticizing the English free-trade policies and advocating tariff reform.

He was a critic of the nascent Neoclassical economics, particularly as propounded by his colleague, Alfred Marshall, and the Cambridge School.

Cunningham taught British historian Annie Abram.

Cunningham died on 10 June 1919 in Cambridge, England.


  • Growth of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times: The Mercantile System (1882); Cambridge U. Press, revised 7th ed. (1907) on line, McMaster
  • Politics and Economics: An Essay on the Nature of the Principles of Political Economy, together with a Survey of Recent Legislation, London, Kegan, Paul, Trench & Co. (1885)
  • Growth of English Industry and Commerce during the Early and Middle Ages (1890); Cambridge, 5th ed. (1910) on line, McMaster)
  • The Use and Abuse of Money, New York, Scribner's (1891); Kessinger, (2006) ISBN 1-4254-9423-4
  • William Cunningham (1897). Alien Immigrants to England. The Macmillan Co.; Routledge (1997) ISBN 0-7146-1295-2
  • An Essay on Western Civilization in its Economic Aspects (Ancient Times), Cambridge U. Press (1898)
  • An Essay on Western Civilization in its Economic Aspects (Mediaeval and Modern Times), Cambridge U. Press (1900)
  • The Rise and Decline of the Free Trade Movement, (1905); Cosimo ISBN 1-60520-115-4
  • Christianity and Politics, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin (1915)
  • The Story of Cambridgeshire (1920). Cambridge University Press (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00341-4)


  1. "Cunningham, William (CNNN869W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. Martin J. Daunton, British Academy (2005). The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-726326-7.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cunningham, William (economist)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 633–634.

Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Hunt
President of the Royal Historical Society
Succeeded by
Charles Harding Firth
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