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Alfred Marshall

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Marshall, A (1842.7.26-1924.7.13)

Birthplace London, England.

Posts Held

Fellow, St John's Coll. Camb., 1865-77, 1885-1908; Principal, Univ. Coll., Bristol, 1877-82; Lect., Fellow, Balliol Coll. Oxford, 1883-4; Prof. Polit. Econ., Univ. Camb., 1885-1908.

Offices and Honours

Fellow, BA; Vice-Pres., Royal Economic Society.



1. The Principles of Economics (1890), Book One - Preliminary Survey.

2. The Principles of Economics (1890), Book Two - Some Fundamental Notions.

3. The Principles of Economics (1890), Book Three - Of Wants and Their Satisfaction.

4. Book Principles of Economics, Book Four: The Agents of Production.

5. The Principles of Economics (1890), Book Five - General Relations of Demand, Supply and Value.

6. The Principles of Economics, Book Six: The Distribution of the National Income


Alfred Marshall was born in Bermondsey, a London suburb, on 26 July 1842. He died at Balliol Croft, his Cambridge home of many years, on 13 July 1924 at the age of 81. Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge from 1885 to 1908, he was the founder of the Cambridge School of Economics which rose to great eminence in the 1920s and 1930s: A.C. Pigou and J.M. Keynes, the most important figures in this development, were among his pupils. Marshall's magnum opus, the Principles of Economics was published in 1890 and went through eight editions in his lifetime. It was the most influential treatise of its era and was for many years the Bible of British economics, introducing many still-familiar concepts. Alfred Marshall is one of the most outstanding figures in the development of contemporary economics and his influence has been enormous. His most famous student, J. M. Keynes, wrote that;

'He was, within his own field, the greatest in the world for a hundred years'.

The dominant figure in British economics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who's Principles ... still, has the power to fascinate and excite the reader. Though he wrote infrequently, his teaching at Cambridge was a major source of influence on his contemporaries. An able mathematician, he sought to express himself in the simplest language possible, adding the mathematical and quantitative material as appendices and footnotes. His partial equilibrium analysis -- the chief element of his method -- was designed to be appropriate to a dynamic or biological view of economic life. The chief achievement of the Principles is his working out of the economics of the stationary State. He claimed to have independently discovered the marginal utility theory, though typically he did not publish until he had fully integrated this into his system. His welfare economics was of central importance since his decision to take up economics originated in a moral purpose, and his general conclusion was that a redistribution of income from rich to poor would increase total satisfaction. Keynes was among his pupils and the `Keynesian revolution' can be seen as remaining within the Marshallian tradition.

The last edition of Alfred Marshall Principles of Economics appeared in 1920, his final presentation of a course of thought of which successive editions during four decades had recorded the widening and deepening process. The very fact that a difficult treatise in systematic economics, a volume of 858 pages, totalling not far short of 400,000 words, could have arrived at an eighth edition, sufficiently attests the wide acceptance and unexampled influence of Marshall's thought. It is probably well within the truth to assert that the authority of Marshall has been for several decades, and still remains, supreme among the economists of the English-speaking world. This Eighth Edition reports, then, not only the latest but the most authoritative rendering of the school of thought known as the Classical Economics. The position of leading economist of the leading school of economic thought in the world at large could probably, though less securely, is ascribed to Marshall. For many years, in any case, he has ranked as the dean of English economic writers and thinkers. He still so ranks. The successive editions remained in a surprising degree faithful to the positions which were central to Marshall's earlier published work. Growth there doubtless was--but mainly in the details and the amplitude of statement and development. Both his starting point and his point of arrival were--and were avowedly--at essentially classical positions.

It is especially, then, as representative of this classical body of doctrine, and as the latest authoritative presentation of it in systematic form, that this work of Marshall's is here chosen for interpretation and criticism. This is to assume, doubtless, some common point of view or some unity of doctrine in this so-called school --an assumption that must a little await its justification.


J. M. Keynes, `Alfred Marshall', in Essays in Biography (Macmillan, 1933, 1972); B. Corry, `Marshall, Alfred', International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences , D. L. Sills (ed.) (Macmillan and Free Press, 1968), vol. 10; D. P. O'Brien, `A. Marshall' Pioneers of Modern Economics in Britain , eds. D. P. O'Brien and J. R. Presley (Macmillan, 1981); Alfred Marshall: Critical Assessments , 4 vols, ed. J. C. Wood (Croom Helm, 1983).


Author: Alfred, Marshall (1842-1924)

Title: Principles of Economics

Published: London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1920. Eighth edition.

First published: 1890.

Book IV. The Agents of Production. Land, Labour, Capital and Organization.

IV.I Introductory.

IV.II The Fertility of Land.



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