The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

West, Edward (1782–1828)

  • Mark Blaug
Reference work entry


Edward West is remembered – if he is remembered at all – for having stated the theory of differential rent based on the principle of diminishing returns in a long pamphlet just before Ricardo did so, and in virtually the same form and language. This has earned West the title of ‘the first, though not the name-father and greatest of the “Ricardian” school’ (Cannan 1893, p. 219). However, it appears that Ricardo developed the principle of diminishing returns independently of West and even of Malthus (who also published the idea more or less simultaneously) and at any rate Ricardo’s exposition in his Essay on Profits (1815) was clearer then anyone else’s, was more carefully set out and went beyond West in spelling out its implications for the distribution of income between wages, profits and rent. In addition to his Essay on the Application of Capital to Land, with Observations Shewing the Impolicy of any Great Restriction of the Importation of Corn (1815), West only wrote one other work on economics, a short book entitled Price of Corn and Wages of Labour, with Observations upon Dr. Smith, S, Mr. Ricardo, S, and Mr. Malthus’s Doctrines Upon those Subjects (1826). At the time of his death, he was working on a treatise in political economy, the manuscript of which has been lost.


Differential rent Diminishing returns Free trade Malthus, T. R. Market price Natural price Ricardo, D. Wages fund West, E. 

JEL Classifications

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


  1. Cannan, E. 1893. A history of the theories of production and distribution in English political economy from 1776 to 1848. London: Staples Press, 1953.Google Scholar
  2. Grampp, W.D. 1970. Edward West reconsidered. History of Political Economy 2: 316–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Blaug
    • 1
  1. 1.