Barton, John (1789–1852)
Barton is remembered in the history of economic thought for an early critical discussion of the impact of machinery on employment. A Sussex landowner, he combined an interest in statistical observation with a special concern for the impact of industrial and agrarian change on the condition of the labourer. He was the author of two important books, Observations on the Circumstances which Influence the Condition of the Labouring Classes of Society (1817) and An Inquiry into the Causes of the Progressive Depreciation of Agricultural Labour in Modern Times (1820). Later, in the 1830s, he wrote several tracts on the Corn Laws and on population and colonization. He was elected a fellow of the London Statistical Society in 1847 and read a paper in 1849, ‘The Influence of the Subdivision of the Soil on the Moral and Physical Well-being of the People of England and Wales’. His early manuscript essays show a wide and careful grounding in political economy based on Hume, Smith and Ricardo. His first books were, however, written as interventions in the contemporary debates on the Poor Laws.