The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Cairnes, John Elliott (1823–1875)

  • R. D. Collison Black
Reference work entry


Cairnes was born at Castlebellingham, County Louth, Ireland. At the height of his career he was probably the best-known political economist in England after John Stuart Mill, whose friend and associate he was from 1859 onwards; but his interest in economic questions developed relatively late, after periods spent working in his family’s brewing business and in journalism. In 1856 he competed in the examination by which the Whately professorship of political economy at Trinity College, Dublin, was then filled, and was appointed for a five-year term. In 1859 he was also appointed Professor of Political Economy and Jurisprudence at Queen’s College, Galway, a post which he held until 1870. However, he employed a deputy to perform his duties in Galway after he himself moved to London in 1865. In 1866 he became Professor of Political Economy at University College, London, but was forced to resign in 1872 by the progress of the rheumatic disease which left him almost completely paralysed before his death in 1875.


Cairnes, J. E. Deductive method Fawcett, H. Jevons, W. S. Land tenure Malthus’s theory of population Mill, J. S. Rent control Slavery Subjective theory of value Verificationist methodology Wages fund 

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  5. Weinberg, A. 1970. John Elliott Cairnes and the American Civil War. London: Kingswood Press.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. Collison Black
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