William Cunningham (economist)

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William Cunningham

William Cunningham.jpg
Born(1849-12-29)29 December 1849
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died10 June 1919(1919-06-10) (aged 69)
Cambridge, England
Known forEstablishment of economic history in Britain
Adèle Rebecca Dunlop(m. 1876)
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Anglican)
Church Church of England [2]
  • 1873 (deacon) [3]
  • 1874 (priest) [3]
Offices held
Archdeacon of Ely (1907–1919)
Academic background
Alma mater
Thesis The Influence of Descartes on Metaphysical Speculation in England (1876)
Influences F. D. Maurice [4]
Academic work
Sub-discipline Economic history
School or tradition English historical school of economics
Notable students Ellen McArthur [5]
Notable worksThe Growth of English Industry and Commerce (1882)

William Cunningham FBA (29 December 1849 – 10 June 1919) was a Scottish economic historian and Anglican priest. He was a proponent of the historical method in economics and an opponent of free trade.


Early life and education

Cunningham was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, [8] the third son of James Cunningham, Writer to the Signet. Educated at the Edinburgh Institution (taught by Robert McNair Ferguson, amongst others), [9] the Edinburgh Academy, the University of Edinburgh, and Trinity College, Cambridge, he graduated BA in 1873, having gained first-class honours in the moral science tripos. [3] [10]


Cunningham took holy orders in 1873, later serving as chaplain of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1880 to 1891. [11] He was university lecturer in history from 1884 to 1891,[ citation needed ] in which year he was appointed Tooke Professor of Economy and Statistics at King's College, London, a post which he held until 1897. [12] He was lecturer in economic history at Harvard University (c.1899), and Hulsean Lecturer at Cambridge (1885). [13] He became vicar of Great St Mary's, Cambridge, in 1887, and was a founding fellow of the British Academy. [2] In 1907 he was appointed Archdeacon of Ely. [14]

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 has been described as "a champion of women's education in Cambridge." [15] He taught the British historian Annie Abram.

Cunningham died in 1919 in Cambridge, England. [2]


See also

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  1. Koot 2004; Scott 1920, p. 4.
  2. 1 2 3 Koot 2004.
  3. 1 2 3 "Cunningham, William (CNNN869W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. Koot 2004; Scott 1920, p. 3.
  5. Erickson 2018, p. 29.
  6. Goldberg 2013, p. 193.
  7. Berg 1996, p. 70.
  8. Koot 2004; Scott 1920, p. 2.
  9. Scott 1920, p. 2.
  10. Chisholm 1910, p. 633.
  11. Chisholm 1910, p. 633; Koot 2004.
  12. Scott 1920, p. 8.
  13. Koot 2004; Scott 1920, pp. 5, 7.
  14. Bentley 2005, p. 185.
  15. Berg 1996, p. 8.


Bentley, Michael (2005). "The Evolution and Dissemination of Historical Knowledge". In Daunton, Martin (ed.). The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-726326-6.
Berg, Maxine (1996). A Woman in History: Eileen Power, 1889–1940 . Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-56852-4.
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1910). "Cunningham, William (Economist)"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 7 (11th ed.). New York: Encyclopædia Britannica. pp. 633–634.
This article incorporates text from this public-domain publication.
Erickson, Amy Louise (2018). "Ellen Annette McArthur: Establishing a Presence in the Academy". In Smith, Hilda L.; Zook, Melinda (eds.). Generations of Women Historians: Within and Beyond the Academy. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 25–48. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-77568-5_2. ISBN   978-3-319-77568-5.
Goldberg, Jeremy (2013). "Some Reflections on Women, Work, and the Family in the Later Medieval English Town". In Solórzano Telechea, Jesús Ángel; Arízaga Bolumburu, Beatriz Arízaga; Aguiar Andrade, Amélia (eds.). Ser mujer en la ciudad medieval europea. Logroño, Spain: Instituto de Estudios Riojanos. pp. 191–214. ISBN   978-84-9960-052-9 . Retrieved 26 December 2019.
Koot, Gerard M. (2004). "Cunningham, William (1849–1919)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32669.
Scott, W. R. (1920). William Cunningham (1849–1919). London: British Academy. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
Church of England titles
Preceded by
William Emery
Archdeacon of Ely
Succeeded by
Horace Price
Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas George Bonney
Hulsean Lecturer
Succeeded by
John de Soyres
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
William Hunt
President of the Royal Historical Society
Succeeded by
Charles Firth