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John Mills, 1821-1896.

English banker, one of the unsung fathers of the business cycle.

A Manchester banker, John Mills's principal claim to fame is a paper read in December 1867 before the Manchester Statistical Society identifying the periodic phenomenon of the "credit cycle", and a more detailed follow up paper in 1871.

Following the initial suggestions of Langton (1857), Mills set about amassing and plotting data from multiple sources - prices,  bank reserves, bullion, interest rates, bankruptcies, pauperism, etc. - to prove that the existence of a ten-year cycle in economic activity was correlated with credit, and 'business mood' - "decennial fits of terror".  Identified easy credit, speculative excess and overoptimistic expectations as characteristic of a boom, and argued for the usefulness of the suspension of convertibility in averting the worst effects of a crisis.  He did not, however, propose a clear theory of expectations, leaving it to 'occult forces'. 

Mills work was highly influential on fellow Mancunian W. Stanley Jevons.



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Major Works of John Mills

  • The Bank Charter Act and the Late Panic: A paper read before the economic section of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science at Manchester, October 5, 1866, 1866. [bk]
  • "On Credit Cycles and the Origins of Commercial Panics", 1867, Trans of MSS, p.5
  • "On the Post Panic Period, 1866-70", 1871, Trans MSS, p.81
  • "On the Scope and Method of Statistical Enquiry, and on some questions of the Day", 1871, Trans MSS, p.1.




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Resources on John Mills



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