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Nassau William Senior (1790-1864)

Nassau Senior was born on 26 September 1790 at Compton Beauchamp, Berkshire. He was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford from where he graduated in 1812. In 1819 he was called to the Bar. He became one of the leading Classical economists of the period and was the first Drummond professor of political economy at Oxford, holding the post from 1825 to 1830 and then between 1847 and 1862. He had a great deal of influence in the political affairs of the mid-nineteenth century and made many contributions to economic theory.

In 1830, he published On the cost of Obtaining Money and in 1836 his An Outline of the Science of Political Economy appeared. In this book, he introduced the view that the saving and accumulation of capital must be considered a part of the cost of production. He worked on the concept of rent and led the revolt among the classical economists against the Malthusian theory of population. He also extended the theory of the distribution of precious metals and showed the importance of productivity for general price levels. In 1840 his book The Value of Money was published.

Senior was actively involved in the setting of economic policy. He served as adviser to the Whig party and in 1832 he became a Poor Law Commissioner. Together with Edwin Chadwick he produced the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. He stressed the importance of the last hour's work in the cotton factories, arguing that all the profits were made in that time. His ideas in this area were used to oppose the reduction of working hours in manufacturing industry. He was one of the commissioners on handloom weavers in 1841 and advised the government of Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne to oppose trade unions. Senior died on 4 June 1864 in London.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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