The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Birmingham School

  • F. Y. Edegworth
Reference work entry


Thomas Attwood is a signal example of good sense and general intelligence overborne by a futile monetary theory. He was the leader of the ‘Birmingham School’ who advocated high prices maintained by inflation of the currency. Attwood and his followers taught a lesson needed by some of their contemporaries when they insisted on the hardship inflicted on debtors by a fall in general prices, or rise in the value of the monetary standard. But the extent of the evil was greatly exaggerated when the resumption of specie payments in 1819 was made responsible for almost every trouble which subsequently befell the kingdom – the agricultural distress in England, the turbulence of O’Connell in Ireland, or the ‘Rebecca’ riots in Wales. The argument directed against the resumption deserves particular attention. It was held that the depreciation of paper with respect to gold just before the resumption was much less than the appreciation of gold with respect to things in general which followed the resumption. ‘That measure (which it was said would only effect a charge to the extent of 3 per cent) had imposed an additional burthen of of 25, 30, or 40 per cent) on every man in the community in all cases of deed, mortgage, settlement, or contact.’ Prof. Walker appears inclined to ascribe some weight to this argument (Money, p. 388; Money, Trade, and Industry, p. 282).

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Y. Edegworth
    • 1
  1. 1.