The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Bonar, James (1852–1941)

  • Murray Milgate
  • Alastair Levy
Reference work entry


Born at Collace in Perthshire (Scotland) on 27 September 1852, Bonar managed to combine a life-long career as a civil servant with the study of the history of economic thought, where his work focused on Smith, Ricardo, and especially Malthus. Somewhat ironically, given its rather poor reception at the time, his Philosophy and Political Economy (1893) is the book by which he is now principally remembered. Like Adam Smith, after graduating from Glasgow University, Bonar went as Snell Exhibitioner to Balliol College, Oxford, taking a first in 1877 and ‘rounding-off’ his studies at Leipzig and Tübingen (Shirras 1941, p. 146). Afterwards he removed to the contrasting environment of the East End of London, lecturing there for three years as one of the pioneers of the University Extension Movement and founding an Adam Smith Club to promote the popular discussion of economic matters. In 1881 he joined the Civil Service, in which he remained until his retirement in 1919. From 1907 he was Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in Ottawa.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Keynes, J.M. 1933. Essays in biography. London: Macmillan. In the Collected works of John Maynard Keynes, Vol. X, London: Macmillan, 1972.Google Scholar
  2. Shirras, G.F. 1941. James Bonar. Economic Journal 51: 145–156.Google Scholar
  3. Sraffa, P. (ed.) 1951–73. The works and correspondence of David Ricardo, 11 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murray Milgate
    • 1
  • Alastair Levy
    • 1
  1. 1.