The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

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Davenant, Charles (1656–1714)

  • Peter Groenewegen
Living reference work entry

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Economist and administrator. Born in London, eldest son of William Davenant, the playwright and Poet Laureate, he was educated at Cheam School, Surrey, and entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1671, going down in 1673 without a degree to take over the management of his father’s theatre. In 1675 he wrote a tragedy, Circe (Davenant, 1677), but the theatre gained him little financial success. He also obtained an LL.D from Cambridge in 1675 and practised law for a short period. From 1678 to 1689 he was Commissioner of Excise. He sat as MP for St Ives from 1685 to 1688 and represented Great Bedwin in the Tory interest following the elections of 1698 and 1700. The financial consequences of his loss of office as Excise Commissioner in 1689 and unsuccessful attempts in 1692 and 1694 to obtain other positions in the revenue service appear to have inspired a career as pamphleteer, starting in 1695. Until 1702, when he again obtained preferment by being appointed Secretary to the Commission for negotiating the union between England and Scotland, he produced a steady flow of political and economic writings dealing with aspects of taxation, public debt, monetary and trade questions, foreign policy and criticisms of Whig policy in general. In June 1703 he obtained the post of Inspector-General of Exports and Imports in the Customs Office, a position he retained till his death in 1714. Most of his political and commercial writings were collected by C.E. Whitworth (1771) but two manuscript works on money and credit (Davenant, 1695b and 1696) were not published till 1942 (Evans 1942).


Davenant, C. King, G. King–Davenant law of demand Mercantilism Political arithmetic Recoinage debates Tax administration 

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© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Groenewegen
    • 1
  1. 1.