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The University of Cambridge, alongside its great rival Oxford, is one of the ancient universities of England. In the course of its history, the economics faculty at Cambridge has been arguably the single most influential faculty in the development of economics in the 20th Century.
Cambridge is a collegiate university, composed of 31 colleges, half of which have been founded since the 1880s. The oldest extant college is Peterhouse (or St. Peter's College) which was founded in 1284 by the Bishop of Ely. The largest and arguably most famous of its colleges is Trinity College (f. 1546 by Henry VIII), which nurtured Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and other leading lights of the scientific revolution of the 17th C. The powerful mathematics tradition at Trinity produced a second scientific revolution in the 19th C. under the leadership of William Whewell, which included Charles Babbage, Augustus de Morgan, Francis Galton, Arthur Cayley, James Clerk Maxwell and others. Towards the end of the century, Trinity was also the home of the philosophers Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore and Henry Sidgwick. But historians of economics are usually drawn to Trinity's great rival, King's College (f.1441 by Henry VI), the home of Arthur Cecil Pigou and John Maynard Keynes and crucible of the Keynesian revolution, and the post-Keynesian 'Cambridge School' of economics of Richard F. Kahn, Nicholas Kaldor, Joan Robinson.
Although Cambridge traditionally hosted a number of "university professors", usually one for each field, by and large, the job of educating the students was left to the constituent colleges, the central university merely providing the final examination and bestowing the degrees. Each college had a stable of 'fellows' who acted as tutors and lecturers for the students. In principle, fellows were recent graduates that continued residing at the college to 'mentor' undergraduate. By statute, the fellows of a college were expected to be ordained into the Anglican priesthood after seven years. However, a fellow who took up lecturing could retain the fellowship without ordination (although, until 1882, he was still required to remain unmarried.) A fellowship was originally designed for only a few years for a small emolument, but its length increased greatly over time and better paid, becoming a quite comfortable career-long option. To encourage resignations of fellows and open up spaces for 'new blood', colleges introduced a number of well-paid 'livings' (effectively, retirement pensions) available, competition for which was also quite stiff.
Cambridge University was legendarily founded in 1209 by exiled scholars from Oxford. Cambridge was in full operation probably by 1229, and formally granted a royal charter by Edward I in 1291. Its status as a Studium generale was confirmed by papal bull in 1318.
Like monasteries and other church-related institutions, Cambridge was in danger of being seized during the Protestant reformation of Henry VIII in the 1530s. But the king decided to reform the university instead. Endowments were overhauled and colleges were consolidated (famously King's Hall and Michaelhouse were merged to create Trinity College in 1546). In 1540, Henry VIII had the crown create (and control) five professorial chairs, the 'Regius Professors' of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Law and Medicine. (a crown chair in Divinity had already been endowed back in 1502). During the Henrican reforms, the traditional Catholic Scholastic curriculum was purged in favor of a more Humanistic one, marking the break with the Medieval university. Edward VI's Chantries Act of 1547, seizing revenues of church schools, specifically exempted Cambridge and Oxford.
Under Elizabeth I, Parliament passed the Act of Incorporation (1571), establishing the structure of Cambridge University, recasting it as a seminary for the Church of England and regulating the relationship between the central university and the constituent colleges. The Elizabethan statutes were very detailed, down to curriculum and student life, and would remain unchanged until the 1856 Reform.
Through much of its history, Cambridge University was geared towards training clergy, and dominated by a Scholastic curriculum. By the Elizabethan statutes of the university, students were required in their first year to learn rhetoric, their second and third logic, and their fourth philosophy. Students obtained their undergraduate degrees after an oral examination, a Latin disputation to assess their language skills and mastery of Scholastic logic.
In the course of the 17th C., the encroachment of vernacular teaching and the scientific revolution began whittling away at the importance of the disputation. Around the 1730s, the newly-founded Senate House at Cambridge introduced the first written examinations to students who had already met the statute requirements for graduation. These Senate House examinations would become better known as the famous Tripos, a multi-day written examination ordeal in vernacular English.
The first two days of the Tripos were dedicated to Mathematics (Euclid, Algebra and, for those wishing higher grades, Newton's Principia), with a bit of appended Natural Science (mechanics, hydrostatics, astronomy and optics). The third day was Moral Philosophy (principally an understanding of Locke's Essay and, later, a couple of Paley's texts), although this section was only added in 1779 and its scores did not really matter for the overall Tripos. The fourth day saw the preliminary results, where students were grouped into six ordered categories, and a student in a lower category would be given a chance in the course of the day to challenge a higher student to a mathematical duel. Finally, on the fifth day, the final results, the (in)famous Tripos list, would be published, rank ordering the students from the highest to the lowest.
At the start, the Tripos was wholly voluntary (the required final oral Latin disputation was not dropped until 1838). But in the course of the 18th and 19th C., it became increasingly important and students competed fiercely for it. As the Tripos was really the only 'objective' way of assessing the intellectual achievement of Cambridge students, a high score on the Tripos opened doors to better careers for many students of modest backgrounds. A high Tripos score practically guaranteed a Fellowship to a College, a requirement for anyone hoping for an academic career or high ecclesiastical position. The annual Tripos list was published openly from 1748 to 1909, and usually made it to the national newspapers.
Of course, the already well-connected sons of the nobility and gentry, who regarded the university as merely a 'finishing school' for good manners and connections, did not bother with the Tripos, and a differentiation soon emerged between 'honours' students (those intending to attempt the Tripos) and 'pass' (or 'poll') students (those who didn't). From 1753, an honours student that completed the Tripos examination with high marks ('first class honours') was known as a Wrangler, those with second-class honours as Senior Optimes and the third class honours as Junior Optimes. Wranglers were usually offered Fellowships at their Colleges. The highest scoring student was known as the 'Senior Wrangler', the next as the 'Second Wrangler', and so on. William Paley (1763) and A.W. Flux (1887) achieved the top rank of Senior Wrangler. Among Second Wranglers, we find William Whewell (1816), Leonard Courtney (1855), Alfred Marshall (1865) and George H. Darwin (1868). Rev. Robert Malthus placed 9th (1768), while John Maynard Keynes placed 12th (1905). Philippa Fawcett, daughter of Henry Fawcett, was unofficially the Senior Wrangler of 1890, and the first woman to top the list.
As the harder and highest-scoring questions on the Tripos were in the mathematical section, honours students tended to focus almost exclusively on studying mathematics, to the exclusion of other subjects, during their time at Cambridge. In an attempt to rectify this, the Moral Philosophy section was added to the Tripos in 1779, but because it did not really impact the scores, was not really studied for. The dominance of the Tripos undermined the wider curriculum the colleges sought to teach - and indeed were required to teach. But few students cared for anything outside the mathematics required for the Tripos. Beginning with St. John's in the 1770s, individual colleges began instituting their own in-house written examinations in other subjects (Classics, Moral Philosophy, etc.), frequently for cash prizes, to encourage students to make an effort to study outside mathematics. Indeed, Trinity College went so far as to make the results on its in-house examination (est. in 1790), rather than the Tripos, as the condition for its fellowships. A Classical Tripos was introduced in 1824, although it was required (until 1857) that a student must pass the Mathematical Tripos before attempting this (exceptions were given to noblemen).
Although there were no formal requirements for admission into a Cambridge college other than a headmaster's letter, the 'Previous Examination' was introduced in 1824, whereby all second-year students were required to pass a written examination, demonstrating their knowledge of one of the Gospels (in Greek), a Greek or Latin classic, Paley's Evidences of Christianity and the first three books of Euclid - something any public school education would have given them. Candidates for honours degrees had additional requirements in mathematics in their Previous Examinations.
Poll students were supposed to sit a Final Examination in May, essentially a reiteration of the Previous Examination, with additional sections relating to the material from one of the compulsory courses taught by the dozen or so university professors. Consequently, a professors' lectures tended to packed with unwilling poll students seeking to meet this requirement. Honours students took their final Tripos Examination in January, on the different honors syllabus.
Despite these efforts, the mathematical character of the Tripos distorted the educational balance at Cambridge. Students disinclined to that mathematical race, often preferred to enroll at logic-focused Oxford instead. The type of mathematics itself was also twisted by the very structure of the examination scheme. As so much was hanging on the precise ordering of the students, the examiners took to constructing very precise but abstruse questions, which would trip up many but could be objectively graded. The mathematics also remained firmly confined to the Euclidian geometry and Newtonian world of yesteryear, with little or no infusion from developments in mathematics, particularly in algebra, from the Continent. It is significant that despite Cambridge's focus, very few top-level British mathematicians taught at Cambridge. As a result, the press for reform of the Tripos came not merely from the rearguard of Classics and Humanities, but also from Mathematicians and Natural Scientists themselves, who did not feel that their subjects were being properly learned because of these examinations.
Economics enters Cambridge
The English lord Charles Townshend (3rd Viscount) persuaded Cambridge University to introduce a prize in 1754 for the best essay on an economic topic ("for the Study of the Theory of Trade"). The prize was awarded in 1755, but discontinued in 1756, when Townshend himself objected to the question decided upon (on the relationship between commerce and population growth) as he had not been consulted.
The topic was briefly revived in the 1770s, when William Paley lectured at Cambridge. Paley's lectures touched on some economic topics - what would subsequently be published (in 1785) as Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. The earlier (non-economic) parts of Paley's Principles were subsequently introduced into examinations at Trinity College in 1786, and eventually became part of the Tripos examination well into the 19th C.
After Paley left, in 1784, R.A. Ingram, a fellow of Queen's, submitted a plan for incorporating economics in the Cambridge curriculum, proposing a set of public lectures at the university, but that plan failed to generate interest. William Smyth, who was Professor of Modern History at Cambridge from 1807, incorporated some economic subjects in that context.
Paley was leaving just as the young Robert Malthus enrolled at Jesus College, Cambridge. Although Malthus was elected fellow and maintained his contacts with Cambridge over the years, he was not sufficiently inspired to stick around, spending most of his time as a country pastor in Albury. Malthus made a splash with his 1798 Essay on Population. It owes next-to-nothing to his Cambridge period, and if anything, annoyed the clerics. But it led to Malthus's appointment as England's first professor of political economy in 1805 - not, however, at Cambridge, but at the East India College in Haileybury.
Malthus's population essay kicked off the revival of interest in economics in England. It accelerated with the 1810 Bullionist controversy and the 1815 Corn Laws debate. Political economy became the rage in social circles, the subject of discussion everywhere. Marcet's primers and popular lecturers brought the topic to common people. And it was the height of this that a young lawyer, George Pryme, proposed to bring economics to Cambridge in 1816.
Cambridge University hired George Pryme as its first lecturer on political economy in 1816. Although that is a slight overstatement - he was not paid by the university (Pryme collected his fees directly from students), and it was understood that Pryme's lectures would not interfere with the students' real studies. And, as it turns out, it did not interfere too much. Interest was strong at first, but Pryme was a dull lecturer and his coverage very elementary. As the topic receded in public interest and attendance waned, Pryme's lectures were confined to alternate years. In 1825, Oxford University instituted the Drummond chair in political economy. A similar plan had been hatched by William Huskisson for Cambridge, but only on the condition that it go to someone other than Pryme. But Pryme's administrative services to the university made him hard to exclude and the plan sunk. Still, unwilling to be left behind by Oxford, the Cambridge senate nonetheless decided to formally create the title of "Professor of Political Economy" for George Pryme on May 27, 1828. It was a mere title, with no additional responsibilities nor emoluments.
Whewell and Empirical-Inductivism
Pryme was contemporary to the polymath William Whewell, a supernova in a Cambridge firmament crowded with stars. Dissatisfied with the archaic Cambridge curriculum, Whewell had drunk deeply from continental sources - notably French mathematical science and German philosophy. Whewell and his fellow-travelers - John F.W. Herschel, Charles Babbage, George Peacock and others - had launched the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1819, an effort to bring modern continental science to England. Although he took the relatively humble chair of mineralogy in 1828, Whewell was a multi-faceted scholar and his influence stretched far beyond that.
Whewell and the CPS group had opposed Pryme's appointment to the political economy chair. Whewell felt Pryme was a lightweight, that his economics were passé, that he was simply taking up valuable space, and even retarding the introduction of proper economics into Cambridge. Sedgwick's famous Discourse on university education delivered in late 1832 included a plea for economics.
Whewell had dabbled in economics himself, most notably Whewell was the first to attempt to translate economic theory into mathematical equations (1828-30). But Whewell found the Ricardian theory contradictory and lacking. Whewell's economics guru was Richard Jones, a former Cantabrigian, now ensconced as a country pastor in Sussex, but still in constant contact with Cambridge. A strong proponent of the English empirical-inductivist tradition of Bacon, Jones detached Whewell from his Cartesian proclivities and pushed him in the empiricist direction, not only in economics, but in his entire scientific outlook. The mission of economics, like in all science, they asserted, was not to rationally deduce complicated theories from thin axioms, but to establish firm premises drawn from evidence, observation and empirical facts. This was boldly proclaimed in Richard Jones's inaugural address as professor at KCL in 1832, and seconded by William , and Charles Babbage. The empirical-inductivist approach to science in general finds its apotheosis in Whewell's monumental History (1837) and Philosophy of Science (1840).
Richard Jones is often called the founding father (or grandfather) of the English Historical School. One might even characterize the empiricist-inductivist school of Whewell, Jones and Babbage as the first "Cambridge school", competing with the logical-deductivist catallactic school at Oxford, and the theoretical Ricardian school in London for the soul of economics in 1830s Britain. Indeed, it would not be too outlandish to expand this first Cambridge school to include Malthus, who had since developed a great interest in collecting data to supplement his population theory, and turned the population debate into an empirical question. Malthus, Whewell, Jones and Babbage were instrumental in the foundation of "Section F" (Statistics and Economics) of the British Association in 1833 and the Statistical Society of London in 1834. Both of these institutions were dedicated to the empirical-inductivist approach, in contrast to the Ricardian-dominated Political Economy Club.
The 1834 tests debate
At its root, Cambridge University was an ecclesiastical institution, a seminary for the training of clerics for the Church of England. But Cambridge had always been a little more relaxed about its religious requirements than the more conservative Oxford. While Oxford required religious tests both at matriculation and to receive a degree, and examined the student carefully for knowledge of the 39 Articles of the Anglican faith, Cambridge dispensed with the matriculation test altogether and only required that a student declare he was a bona fide member of the Church of England to get his degree [following the Cambridge senate resolution, or grace, of June 23, 1772 (txt)]. This allowed Dissenters (non-Anglicans) to enroll at Cambridge and attend classes, even if they could not ultimately graduate with a degree. As a result, in the course of the centuries, while Oxford maintained itself as the ultimate citadel of orthodox "High Church" Anglicanism, Cambridge acquired a reputation as a breeder of Non-Conformists, Puritans, "Low Church" enthusiasm and other heterodox strains of religious opinion. Students may be required to attend college chapel, and occasionally listen to tiresome lectures by Cambridge divines, but otherwise were left to themselves.
On March 21, 1834, a group of sixty-two Cambridge residents petitioned the British parliament for the abolition of religion tests for degrees. The petition was signed by a bevy of senior professors and other notables, including scientists and mathematicians like G.B. Airy, Adam Sedgwick, William Farish, George Peacock and Charles Babbage. They pointed out that talented Dissenter students found their future professional careers as lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. severely hampered by lack of a degree. The petition was presented before parliament by the Whig PM Earl Grey. The rest of the Cambridge community balked and immediately arranged a counter-petition, much larger than the original, expressing a desire to maintain the religious tests. Nonetheless, a bill for removing the religious tests to receiving degrees was soon drafted and introduced. It was vigorously supported in parliament by Henry Brougham (then lord chancellor) and George Pryme (then a Cambridge MP). The debate raged through 1834, in a cascade of pamphlets and articles. Proponents pointed out it was a minor change, limited to the BA degrees, a parting gift to graduates on their way out, men who were leaving Cambridge anyway, and would not affect the Anglican character of the university itself in any manner. But opponents of the bill feared it was the thin end of the wedge, that if passed, then the pressure would be irresistible to remove other religious clauses - to fellowships and scholarships in colleges, say, or to the MA degrees, and consequently university bodies. A Cambridge governed by multi-denominational councils would lose its fundamental connection with the Church of England. The quarrel soon escalated. Thomas Turton, Dean of Peterborough and the Regius professor of Divinity, deplored the laxity that allowed Dissenters to attend classes at Cambridge to begin with. A young Trinity tutor Connop Thirlwall offered the reply, partly in jest, that Dissenters did not mind, given that there was so little religious instruction going on at Cambridge anyway, it hardly made any difference. Thirlwall then went on to propose dropping mandatory chapel as well. Thirlwall's pamphlet offended the traditionalists, and he was promptly pressed to resign. The dismissal of Thirlwall quickly became a cause celebre, and many who were originally critical (such as William Whewell), flipped over to the liberal side.
The bill eventually passed the House of Commons, but was thrown out in Lords. Despite the illustrious names backing it, they were few and too young to be influential, and the conservative forces of both Cambridge and Oxford combined to defeat it. The timing was maybe not perfect, coming on the tail-end of a dizzying sequence of other liberalizing measures that had shocked conservatives - the removal of civil religious tests in 1828, Catholic emancipation in 1829, the parliamentary reform in 1832, Irish church reform in 1833, etc. By 1834, traditionalists, including the cleric-dominated universities, felt the Anglican church was being besieged, making them adamant about holding the line somewhere, and hyper-vigilant to any further changes. The 1834 tests debate produced some reactionary blowback - accelerating the ultra-conservative "Tractarian" movement at Oxford. However, Cambridge did not experience anything of that kind.
The Moral Sciences Tripos
William Whewell was elected master of Trinity College in 1841. From this new powerful perch, Whewell finally had the chance to implement his program of modernizing education at Cambridge. By this time, the push for educational reform was not merely the foreign fantasy of some lone master or philosophical society. The modern-oriented University College London was up and running, showing how it could be done, and attracting many students. The needs of growing British industry and the domestic and imperial civil service favored better-prepared graduates. Unreformed, Cambridge was in danger of losing its inside track to appointments and positions, and shriveling into irrelevance.
Whewell was the critical force behind the introduction of the "Natural Sciences" and "Moral Sciences" tripos examinations in 1848 (a plan for Theological Tripos conjured at the same time was shelved.). The Moral Sciences Tripos had a difficult birthing history. In its original 1848 conception, the Moral Sciences Tripos covered Moral Philosophy, Political Economy, Modern History, General Jurisprudence and the Laws of England, a hodge-podge of only faintly related topics. It may seem that with the Mathematical, Classical and Natural Sciences Triposes in place by 1848, the Moral Sciences Tripos was just an afterthought, a way to just sweep the remaining fields taught by university professors into a single examination (the five topics were examined by the corresponding five professors). But it can also been argued that Whewell, who was the Knightsbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy since 1838, and chief of the Moral Sciences Tripos, actually believed there was a natural way to weave law, history and economics together, under the grand umbrella of "natural theology". Whatever Whewell's vision may have been, it did not turn out that way. While economics was on the curriculum, there was little incentive to study it, since in its early years, the Moral Sciences examination consisted primarily of questions about facts of modern history and legal history. The Moral Sciences Tripos did not attract many students - it did not lead to a B.A. degree (which still had to go through Mathematics or Classics), and its honours were denigrated as the questions called on rote memory rather than skill. With the paucity of students attempting it, the colleges didn't bother to set up lectureships in it.
During the 1834 tests debate, traditionalists at Cambridge had successfully defended religious restrictions by pointing out they were bound by oath to uphold the Elizabethan statutes and the terms of the wills of the founders of the colleges and scholarships. In the aftermath of their defeat, the proponents of liberalization began examining the statutes themselves in detail. They were 'shocked' to discover that the extensive educational curriculum and requirements mandated in the statutes were quite at variance with practice in the university and colleges. While it may seem odd in retrospect, the 'discovery' that Cambridge was intended to be an educational institution, rather than an ecclesiastical institution, was something of a novelty. It gave the liberalizers their opening to argue that parliamentary interference in the internal workings of the university was legally, morally and politically justified. As the universities were national educational institutions and not private seminaries of the Church of England, parliamentary legislation modifying the statutes would not be 'breaching' some barrier between State and Church. In their push to reform the statutes, the liberalizers found natural allies in the educational reformers.
In April 1850, fifteen years after the tests debate, Sir James Heywood, an MP and Unitarian who had studied (but not taken a degree) at Cambridge, introduced a motion in parliament for a review of the university and college statutes. The Whig PM Lord John Russell took this in hand and appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of Cambridge University. Parallel commissions were established for Oxford and Dublin. The Cambridge Commission of five were all Cantabrigians. It was chaired by John Graham (Bishop of Chester) and included three scientists of reforming bent - mathematician George Peacock, astronomer Sir John Herschel and geology professor Adam Sedgwick [list] While there was resistance to the royal inquiry by Cambridge university authorities and colleges, it did not reach the same dramatic pitch as the resistance at arch-conservative Oxford. The subsequent Cambridge Commission report, which was officially delivered on August 30, 1852, was not nearly as harsh either, but in some ways also less radical. Cambridge was commended for the reforms it had already undertaken, and the commission did not recommend changing the celibacy requirement for fellowships, nor removing the existing religious tests for a BA degree (other than extending that same simple bona fide test to other bachelor degrees, like the B.C.L. and B.M.). They nonetheless made a general note, that other civil institutions have removed religious barriers and granted equal rights, and that it would be a noble thing if Cambridge kept "pace with the progress of enlightened opinion" and move "in sympathy and unison with the spirit of the age", and not "estrange itself from the great movement of liberal progress" (p.44).
Parliament tackled Oxford first, and with some difficulty, passed the Oxford reform act in 1854. It was only two years later that the separate Cambridge reform bill was submitted by Edward Bouverie on May 30, 1846 [Hansard], and passed more easily, receiving royal assent on July 29, 1856 (19 & 20 Vict. c.88). Like at Oxford, the Cambridge was to be saddled with a temporary royal Executive Commission (§1) to oversee the implementation of the reforms. Cambridge colleges would be given the chance to alter their college statutes themselves (§27), and only if they failed to do so, would the Executive Commission step in and legislate for them (§29) (similarly for the University statutes (§30-31)) . The act established a Council of the Senate (§5), composed of 18 persons, including members of the professoriat (§6). Secret oaths or conspiracies to resist changes are declared illegal (§22). The opening of private hostels was permitted (§23-§26). The act abolished religious tests for all bachelor degrees (except divinity) (§45) - indeed the original motion passed in Commons included the abolition of religious tests for MA degrees (thus allowing Dissenters to sit on government bodies), but the MA restrictions were restored by the House of Lords in the final act. The act also removed religious restrictions on exhibitions and scholarships (§46). Unlike the Oxford Act, the Cambridge Act does not contain any clause pertaining to mandatory chapel.
The 1856 reform opened Cambridge University to students of Dissenting religions. But the continued religious restriction on MAs, and certain college fellowships and other emoluments, meant they were still barred from becoming Cambridge fellows, professors and readers. This barrier to finally removed in 1871, with the elimination of all remaining religious tests. The celibacy requirement for fellowships was retained until 1882..
The Moral Sciences Tripos was overhauled by John Grote, who succeeded Whewell in the moral philosophy chair in 1855. In 1860, the Moral Sciences Tripos finally became an honours course for a B.A. degree and a Moral Sciences Board established. General jurisprudence remained on the Moral Sciences curriculum for a while, although Laws of England was removed to a separate "Law Tripos" (for an LL.B. degree) that had been established in 1858. In its place, Logic and Mental Philosophy (i.e. psychology) was introduced. Nearly a decade later, in 1867, Jurisprudence and Modern History (which continued to engulf the examination) was finally removed from the Moral Sciences tripos, and Political Philosophy introduced in its place. (History was initially transferred to Law, becoming "Law and History" Tripos in 1870, but it was an unhappy arrangement; they were separated with the formation of the History tripos in 1873). So with Law and History finally expurged, the Moral Sciences Tripos examination was freed of their dominance. It was really only then that Moral Sciences was given room to develop, and students finally given reason to study economics. In sum, by 1870, the Moral Sciences Tripos was defined as Moral and Political Philosophy, Mental Philosophy and Logic and Political Economy.
The Professorship in Political Economy was only made permanent by the university senate in October, 1863. The holder was to be paid £300 annually, plus a share of student fees. The professor would have to stay in residence at Cambridge for at least eighteen weeks per year, and give lectures. To facilitate its passage, the long-time holder George Pryme resigned the chair. Contests were immediately opened in November 1863, and four candidates proposed: J.B. Mayor (a lecturer in moral sciences and fellow of St. John's), Leonard Courtney (former professor of political economy at UCL, and also a fellow of St. John's), Henry Dunning Macleod (banker) and Henry Fawcett (fellow of Trinity Hall). Fawcett had recently published his Manual of Political Economy, which was well-received, and was armed with recommendation from prominent economists (e.g. John Stuart Mill, W.T.Thornton, William Newmarch, Herman Merivale, J.E. Thorold Rogers among others). Choice of the Professor was by ballot, with the electors consisting of all M.A.s who had maintained residency at Cambridge. Fawcett won easily. Fawcett would give an annual course of lectures on political economy at Cambridge for the next twenty years, until his death in 1884.
The Cambridge Professor of Political Economy would be on the board of both the Moral Sciences Tripos and the History Tripos, and thus economics classes had honours students attempting either of those examinations. But it was still a weak course. The economics textbooks required by Pryme in 1860 (bk) for the examination were thoroughly Classical: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Malthus's Essay, Ricardo's Principles, J.S. Mill's Principles, McCulloch's Political Economy, Richard Jones's Rent, Carey's Political Economy and Chevalier's Cours. Fawcett slimmed it down in 1867 (bk) to Smith, Ricardo and Mill, plus Cairnes's Character and Bastiat's Harmonies. Fawcett's own Manual was used for the special examination for ordinary (poll) degrees. As Mary Paley later recalled, in 1870, the Moral Sciences Tripos had a reputation as "the course for girls", as it required neither mathematics nor classics. But the reputation of Moral Sciences began to ascend with several notable honours candidates in the early 1870s.
Local examinations and extension lectures
The drive for reforming universities, was followed up by a more general drive for improving all education in Britain. Movements, like the National Education League, pushed for the introduction of general, non-sectarian public schools, reaching its climax in Forster's 1870 Education Act. The universities were caught up in the fever for expanding education to the general public. In 1873, Cambridge launched the "Cambridge Extension" lectures,. to bring academic fare to adult students outside the university. Foxwell and Cunningham were early extension lecturers on economics.
The idea for university extension lectures was reputedly begun by James Stuart, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Asked in the Fall of 1867 to lecture on the art of teaching to an audience of school-teachers, Stuart decided to demonstrate it instead, and went on to give a series of lectures on astronomy to various audiences of teachers and artisans in Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool. While public lectures had been routinely sponsored by mechanics institutes and literary societies, Stuart introduced several innovations - courses of multiple lectures (rather than single lectures), syllabi for note-taking, and written examinations by correspondence. Stuart persuaded some other Cambridge friends to follow his lead in subsequent years, but there was little incentive. The extension lecturers tried to set themselves up a peripatetic university, hoping to tap into workers' cooperatives for organization and funding, but this proved difficult.. So in 1871, Stuart proposed that Cambridge University incorporate the extension lecturers as an integral part of the university. A trial period was undertaken, and three fellows of Trinity promptly set out north to the provincial cities of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, to deliver courses on economics, mechanics and English literature. The prescribed rules were that an extension course consisted of (1) twelve weekly lectures, (2) printed syllabi, (3) weekly written exercises, (4) a tutorial class in connection with each lecture; (5) written examinations at the end of the course, overseen by examiners appointed by the syndicate, and the provision of a certificate of completion.. Goschen proposed the adoption of the extension system to London in 1875, and it was accepted and launched in 1876. Benjamin Jowett pressed the plan on Oxford, and it launched its own university extension syndicate in 1878. It had trouble getting started, and was virtually abandoned a couple of years later. But in 1885 Oxford revived the extension system by providing for six-lecture courses (cheaper to fund than the original twelve-lecture scheme), and the extension lectures moved onto explosive growth. Oxford also had lecturers be accompanied by a traveling library, ensuring students had access to the readings in the syllabi, and began bringing in select extension pupils in to Oxford for more intensive summer teaching.
New statutes for Cambridge University were introduced in 1877, and came into law in 1882. In the reorganization, there would be a Moral Science board consisting of three professors: Political Economy (Fawcett), Moral Philosophy (T.R. Birks) and Mental Philosophy and Logic (vacant at the time). In 1883, the utilitarian philosopher Henry Sidgwick succeeded Birks to the Knightsbridge chair of Moral Philosophy. The third chair (Mental Philosophy) was only filled with the appointment of James Ward in 1897. By the new statutes, the stipends for the professors were increased to £700 (minus £200 if he also held a separate fellowship at a college). Professors were required to give annual lecture series and expected to undertake "research and the advancement of knowledge in the department". The fulfillment of these requirements would be overseen by the Moral Sciences Board. The economics curriculum changed dramatically over time. The Moral Sciences board (Fawcett & Sidgwick's) 1883-84 reading list still placed Mill's Principles as centerpiece, but included content from more Historicist (Roscher, Cunninhgam, Cliffe-Leslie), Financial (Bagehot, Goschen) and Neoclassical (Walker, Cournot, Jevons and Marshall) literature. For the economics section of the History Tripos, there were additional readings from Levi, Brentano and Thorold Rogers.
Marshall and the Economics Tripos
[see also Cambridge Neoclassicals]
Fawcett died in November 1884, and a new competition for the Professorship of Political Economy began - which, under the new statutes, were to be chosen by a select committee of nine rather than elected by the much wider body of resident MAs. There were six candidates in the running - four of them considerably strong and equally matched: H.D. Macleod (again), R.H. Inglis Palgrave (another banker), William Cunningham (a rising economic historian) and Alfred Marshall (then teaching at Oxford). In the end, Alfred Marshall was elected. At the time, Marshall was still a relative unknown, having few publications compared to the others; but he had a solid reputation as a long-time lecturer (whereas it was a question mark with the others), and close friendships with some of the electors (notably Herbert S. Foxwell), Marshall gave his inaugural lecture as professor at Cambridge on February 24, 1885.
Almost from the outset, Marshall set about trying to expand the proportion of economics in both the Moral Sciences and History curriculum and exams. For this, there were titanic struggles behind the scenes in Cambridge. Marshall's scheme of aggrandizement naturally came up against the resistance of the other two members of the Moral Sciences Board - Henry Sidgwick (Moral Philosophy) and, later, James Ward (Mental Philosophy). Moreover, Marshall's narrowly Neoclassical vision of what constituted :"economics" also annoyed natural allies, like the historicist lecturer William Cunninhgam. But in his endeavor, Marshall had the support of some lecturers. notably Herbert Foxwell and John Neville Keynes. Eventually, through negotiation, Marshall and Sidgwick gradually agreed on the increasing separation of the philosophical from the economic parts of the Moral Sciences curriculum, effectively accomplished in 1897, allowing students to specialize in one or the other.
After Sidgwick's death in 1900, Marshall pressed for a permanent secession, pointing at the example of the LSE (f.1895) as showing the direction Cambridge needed to go. He finally won his case, and the "Economics Tripos" (in full "Economics and Associated Branches in Political Economy") was introduced in 1903. The supervisory Economics Board included the Professor of Political Economy (Marshall), but also the new professor of Moral Philosophy (W.R. Sorley), Modern History (J.R. Bury), Laws of England (Maitland), International Law (J. Westlake) and Geography (H.Y. Oldham). A.W. Ward (Master of Peterhouse) was the first chairman of the Economics Board and political scientist Lowes Dickinson was its first secretary. Marshall still hoped for some overlap - that is, Marshall expected that students in Moral Sciences Tripos would still be required to learn economics in Part I of their degree program, and if they had a taste for it, could transfer over to Economics Tripos for Part II. But this was denied him - economics was expunged entirely from the Moral Sciences curriculum, and the professor of political economy removed from the Moral Sciences Board.
In 1903, the London livery company of Girdlers endowed a lectureship in economics at Cambridge, with an emolument of £100 per annum, to begin in 1904 and run for three years. Marshall student Arthur Cecil Pigou (who had obtained his degree in 1900) was appointed the first Girdlers' University Lecturer. The Girdlers renewed their endowment in 1907.
In the early years of the new Economics Tripos, there were only three paid instructors dedicated to economics - Marshall as professor, Foxwell as St. John's lecturer and Pigou as Girdlers' lecturer (Neville Keynes, now deep into logic, remained with Moral Sciences). Other teachers were drawn from other triposes (e.g. H.D. MacGregor and William Cunningham from history).
Marshall succeeded Ward as chairman of the Economics Board in 1906, and began to prepare his own retirement from the economics professorship. The succession to Marshall's professorial chair in 1908 was marked by controversy. The chair had long been promised by Marshall to his former pupil Herbert S. Foxwell, who had reluctantly accepted the chair at UCL back in 1881 (albeit retaining his St John lectureship), on the promise that he would succeed Marshall at Cambridge. But by the mid-1900s, it was clear Marshall's preferences had changed definitively in favor of Arthur Cecil Pigou. Marshall placed heavy pressure on on the electors - A.J. Balfour, Leonard Courtney, F.Y. Edgeworth, J.N. Keynes, J.S. Nicholson, R.H. Inglis Palgrave, V.H. Stanton and W.R. Sorley - and Pigou was elected Professor of Political Economy in 1908. Later that year, when former Foxwell student, Henry Higgs, proposed to raise money for a second economics chair at Cambridge specifically for Foxwell, Marshall sunk the proposal, openly declaring Foxwell unfit. To this injury was added insult in 1916, when Pigou petitioned for exemption from military service in World War I, on account that there was "no one" at Cambridge able to replace him (Foxwell was still lecturing there).
To take up the professorship in June 1908, Arthur Cecil Pigou resigned the Girdlers' lectureship to economic historian H.O. Meredith. At the same time, to make up for Foxwell's departure, the Economics and Politics Board authorized two new lectureships in economics (with a modest stipend of £100 each, paid out of Pigou's professorship). These were awarded to Walter Thomas Layton (a recent Trinity graduate) and the young John Maynard Keynes (graduated from King's in 1906, Keynes had been since cooling his heels at the India Office in London, waiting for a chance to return). Meredith would resign in 1911, to take up a post in Queen's College Belfast, and so Keynes moved up to Girdlers lecturer in 1911. Simultaneously, the second lectureship, held by Layton, was upgraded (made official, with the funds now coming from the general university fund rather than Pigou's pocket). Rounding off the teaching of economics in this period were the mathematician and moral sciences lecturer W.E. Johnson, tthe economic historians John Clapham and C.R. Fay, and the political scientist Lowes Dickinson.
There is little doubt that Pigou and Keynes were the dominant figures at Cambridge, the heirs of Marshall and Foxwell. In October 1909, Keynes launched the "Political Economy Club" at Cambridge, an exclusive discussion club that met on Monday evenings, consisting mostly of faculty (although Pigou rarely attended), graduate students and some bright undergraduates.. Among the new economics students bred during this time by Pigou and Keynes were Dennis H. Robertson (Trinity), Hubert D. Henderson and Frederick Lavington (Emmanuel), Gerald Shove and Hugh Dalton (King's College) and Dudley Ward (St. John's). The atmosphere was also changing at this time, with the arrival of the Fabian Socialists in 1906, with their open membership and politically fashionable radical ideas. The Fabians soon became the center of intellectual and social life at Cambridge, gradually eclipsing the older and more detached "Apostles".
The First World War decimated Cambridge. Legions of its students had abandoned their studies to enlist, many of them going on to be slaughtered in the trenches of the western front. Keynes had been seconded to the Treasury, while Pigou lectured to nearly empty classrooms.. With the loss of a generation, its adjustment to the post-war situation were difficult. In the lectureships, Layton would be succeeded by Hubert D. Henderson in 1919 and Keynes by Frederick Lavington in 1920.
In the early 1920s, this included, besides Pigou and Keynes, Gerald Shove (King's College), Dennis H. Robertson and Frank P. Ramsey (Trinity), Austin Robinson (Corpus Christi), Frederick Lavington (Emmanuel), and Maurice H. Dobb ( (Clare). Joan Maurice/Robinson (Girton) was excluded.
The Department of Applied Economics was created in 1945, with director Richard Stone. It merged with the Faculty of Economics in 2004.
Professors of Political Economy
1816 George Pryme
Some Cambridge economists and the colleges at which they were fellows and/or educated:
Resources on Cambridge University
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