William Cunningham (economist)

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William Cunningham (29 December 1849, Edinburgh, Scotland – 10 June 1919, Cambridge) was a British economist and churchman. He was an eminent economic historian, a proponent of the historical method in economics, and an opponent of free trade.


Educated at Edinburgh Institution, Edinburgh Academy and University and Trinity College, Cambridge, he graduated BA in 1873, having gained a first class in the Moral Science tripos.[1] In the same year took holy orders, later serving as chaplain of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1880-91. He was university lecturer in history from 1884 to 1891, in which year he was appointed Tooke Professor of Economy and Statistics at King's College London, a post which he held until 1897. He was lecturer in economic history at Harvard University (1899), and Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge (1885). He became vicar of Great St Mary's, Cambridge, in 1887, and was made a fellow of the British Academy. In 1907 he was appointed archdeacon of Ely.[2]

Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce during the Early and Middle Ages (1890; 4th ed., 1905) and Growth of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times (1882; 3rd ed., 1903) are among the standard works of reference on the industrial history of England.

Cunningham's eminence as an economic historian gave special importance to his support of Joseph Chamberlain from 1903 onwards in criticizing the English free-trade policies and advocating tariff reform.

He was a critic of the nascent Neoclassical economics, particularly as propounded by his colleague, Alfred Marshall, and the Cambridge School.



  1. "Cunningham, William (CNNN869W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Martin J. Daunton, British Academy (2005). The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-726326-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Scott, William Robert (1920). William Cunningham (1849-1919). London: British Academy.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Hunt
President of the Royal Historical Society
Succeeded by
Charles Harding Firth