James Bonar (civil servant)

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James Bonar
Born 27 September 1852
Died 18 January 1941 (aged 88)
Nationality Scottish
School or
Austrian School

James Bonar (27 September 1852 – 18 January 1941) was a Scottish civil servant, political economist and historian of economic thought.[1] He was born in Perth but brought up, from the age of four, in Glasgow where his father was a Church of Scotland Minister. This clerical background extends to two uncles, both ministers who 'came out' in the disruption of 1843, both later serving terms as Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly. From Glasgow Academy Bonar graduated MA in Mental Philosophy from Glasgow University in 1874. He followed the same lengthy undergraduate career that Adam Smith pursued more than a century before gaining a Snell Exhibition to Balliol College Oxford from which he graduated with a first in 1877.

A major early influence was the moral philosopher, Edward Caird: first as Professor at Glasgow and then as Master of Balliol. Together with his family background that influence helps explain Bonar's decision to spend the next three years teaching economics in the newly established University Extension Movement in the East End of London. In 1881 he began a career in the civil service only retiring (to live in Hampstead) from his final position, as Deputy Manager of the Ottawa branch of the Royal mint, in 1919 at the age of 67.

He was awarded an LLD from Glasgow University in 1887, and an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University in 1935.

Major publications[edit]


  1. ^ "BONAR, James". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 179. 
  2. ^ "Review of Letters of David Ricardo to Thomas Robert Malthus ed. by James Bonar". Science. XI (269): 156. 30 March 1888. 
  3. ^ "Ricardo's Letters to Malthus, edited by Bonar. Note". The Quarterly Journal of Economics 1887/1888. II: 65. 

• Shirras, G F 'Obituary: James Bonar', Economic Journal vol. 51, April 1941, pp. 145–56.

• "Bonar, James" in Rutherford D (ed.) The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists' vol.1, Theommes Continuum, 2004,pp. 123–4.

External links[edit]