Jeremy Bentham

  • Ross Harrison
Part of the The New Palgrave book series (NPA)


Bentham was born in London on 15 February 1748, the son and grandson of a lawyer; he died in London on 6 June 1832. Destined by his father to be a lawyer, the law formed the centre of his long life. However, he turned at an early age from the idea of making money by the practice of law as it is and instead concentrated on the study of law as it ought to be. Bentham spent most of his life writing, accumulating piles of manuscript material on the theory of law and all associated subjects. At first these manuscripts were turned by him into books, but for most of his life he depended upon disciples to do the editing for him. Hence much of the important work which appeared in his lifetime appeared in French, edited by his Genevan disciple, Etienne Dumont, and other important material has only been published in this century. As well as the general theoretical work, Bentham wrote a mass of material designed to press particular schemes of improvement on the government, such as the design of prisons and poorhouses, new systems of taxation and a plan for interest-bearing currency. His economic work is contained in some of these occasional writings, largely unpublished in his lifetime, an early tract entitled Defence of Usury (1787), which was quite successful in its day, and some more theoretical treatises which also only existed in manuscript until edited by Werner Stark in 1952–4. Stark’s edition, in three volumes, contains all the relevant material.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1989

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  • Ross Harrison

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