George Stigler's Report
On the Lectures by Alfred Marshall
Concerning Henry George's
and Poverty -- An Addendum*
John F. Henry
[See: Henry, John, F., "Professor Stigler's
Report on "Alfred Marshall's Lectures on Progress and Poverty".
An Addendum" Marshall Studies Bulletin 5 (1995): 39-40]
* This note was written while the author was Visiting Scholar,
Wolfson College, University of Cambridge.
In the 1969 volume of The Journal of Law and Economics,
George Stigler published the newspaper accounts of Alfred Marshall's
1883 lectures delivered in response to Henry George's most famous work
(Stigler 1969). In addition to Professor Stigler's introduction to
these lectures, we now have the very fine Peter Groenewegen biography
of Marshall which devotes a section to Marshall's debate with George
(and with Alfred Russel Wallace who held similar views) (Groenewegen
1995, pp. 581-87).
Up to this point, one assumed that the newspaper accounts were
complete (apart from the usual misprints and minor omissions one would
expect). Indeed, Stigler reported that it was "[...] possible to
have considerable confidence in the reliability of the text as now
published" (Stigler 1969, p. 184).
However, while rummaging through some containers of Marshall's papers
in the Marshall Library of Cambridge University, I uncovered another
set of newspaper accounts of the lectures that were clipped by Mary
Paley Marshall. According to Alexandra Saunders, Marshall archivist,
these were a "[...] precursor to the very large volume of press
cuttings she kept from 1883-1927" (private correspondence,
October 1, 1995) and which are housed in the library (the clippings,
along with the addendum are filed as Marshall 3/9).
This "precursor" set of clippings contains an addendum to
the second, February 27 lecture not found in the newspaper account
that might be viewed as significant by some. Following a comparison of
the writing style of the note with that of other examples of Mary
Marshall's penmanship, Ms. Saunders is quite certain, though not
absolutely so, that the addendum is in her hand. To my (perhaps less
cautious) eye, there are enough stylistic similarities between the
note and other examples of her hand to remove any doubts. And, as it
was she who preserved the clippings, it is logical that it would be
Mary Marshall who actually did write the added lines. This would
indicate that the additional commentary was an accurate account of
what was actually said.
The addendum reads:
Mr. Jones, Secretary of the Trades Council, in Seconding
the vote of thanks to the Lecturer, said that working men wd [would]
have been saved many blunders in the past if they had been familiar
with such instruction as they had heard to-night.
Mr. Marshall in reply said he would like to sum up what Mr. Jones
had said in two words. First, that it would be good for working men
to study political economy, and second, that it would be good for
political economy for working men to study it. Political Economy had
been too much studied from the side of the capitalists: even
impartial students like himself found it easier to learn the
capitalists side than the working man. The best hope of the progress
of the science was in its being taken up by working men.
What one should make of this is uncertain. One interpretation could
be that, as the lectures were organized under the auspices of the
Evening Class Extension Committee of Bristol University College and
were addressed to a largely working class audience, Marshall's remarks
were nothing more than a sop to the assembly. Another view,
representing perhaps the opposite end of the interpretative spectrum
might be that here Marshall admits to a capitalist class bias in
economic theory, one that he sees as requiring correction by the
introduction of a working class bias. If correct, then it must be
concluded that Marshall saw no possibility for a "scientific"
economics that would stand apart from the underlying social relations
I suspect that given Marshall's early concerns for reform and the
fate of workers (though from a rather paternalistic point of view) --
the period in which he expressed some socialist (with a very small "s")
sympathies -- these closing remarks are rather an expression of
Marshall's early and continuing efforts to broaden the scope of
economic theory beyond that predicated upon the standard view of the
individualist "economic man" that continues to pervade the
economic literature (on which, see Groenewegen, pp. 570-617, passim).
Given recent developments where such a "man" is less
pervasive, perhaps Marshall's campaign has achieved some limited
- Groenewegen P. (1995), A
Soaring Eagle: Alfred Marshall 1842-1924, Aldershot: Edward
- Stigler G. (1969), "Alfred
Marshall's Lectures on Progress and Poverty", The Journal
of Law and Economics, 12, April, pp. 181-226.