Walter Bagehot

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Walter Bagehot
Walter Bagehot NPG cropped.jpg
Portrait by Norman Hirst,
after an unknown artist
Born(1826-02-03)3 February 1826
Langport, Somerset, England
Died24 March 1877(1877-03-24) (aged 51)
Langport, Somerset, England
NationalityBritish
Alma materUniversity College London
OccupationBusinessman, essayist, journalist
Political partyLiberal[1]
Signature
Walter Bagehot signature.png

Walter Bagehot (/ˈbæət/ BAJ-ət; 3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877) was a British journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race.

Life[edit]

Bagehot was born in Langport, Somerset, England, on 3 February 1826. His father, Thomas Watson Bagehot, was managing director and vice-chairman of Stuckey's Bank. He attended University College London (UCL), where he studied mathematics, and in 1848 earned a master's degree in moral philosophy.[2] Bagehot was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn, but preferred to join his father in 1852 in his family's shipping and banking business.

In 1858, Bagehot married Elizabeth (Eliza) Wilson (1832–1921), whose father, James Wilson, was the founder and owner of The Economist; the couple were happily married until Bagehot's untimely death at age 51, but had no children.[3] A collection of their love-letters was published in 1933.[4]

Journalism[edit]

In 1855, Bagehot founded the National Review with his friend Richard Holt Hutton.[5][6] In 1861, he became editor-in-chief of The Economist. In the 17 years he served as its editor, Bagehot expanded The Economist's reporting on politics and increased its influence among policymakers.

Works[edit]

Title page of the first edition of Bagehot's The English Constitution, 1867.[7]

In 1867, Bagehot wrote The English Constitution,[7] a book that explores the nature of the constitution of the United Kingdom, specifically its Parliament and monarchy. It appeared at the same time that Parliament enacted the Reform Act of 1867, requiring Bagehot to write an extended introduction to the second edition which appeared in 1872.

Bagehot also wrote Physics and Politics (1872),[8] in which he examines how civilisations sustain themselves, arguing that in their earliest phase civilisations are very much in opposition to the values of modern liberalism, insofar as they are sustained by conformism and military success, but once they are secured it is possible for them to mature into systems which allow for greater diversity and freedom. His viewpoint was based on a distinction between the qualities of an “accomplished man” and those of a “rude man”, which he considered the result of iterative inheritances by which the “nervous organisation” of the individual became increasingly refined through the generations.[9] He regarded this distinction as a moral achievement whereby through the actions of the will, this “accomplished“ elite was able to moral differentiate themselves from “rude men“ by a “hereditary drill“. He equally applied such reasoning to develop a form of pseudoscientific scientific racism, whereby those of mixed race lacked any “inherited creed” or “fixed traditional sentiments” upon which, he considered, human nature depended. He attempted to provide empirical support for his views by citing John Lubbock and Edward Tylor, although neither of them accepted such arguments for hereditary difference in their writings on human evolution. Tylor in particular rejected Bagehot's view of the centrality of physical heredity and that the modern “savage“ mind was “tattooed over with monstrous images” by which base instincts had been preserved in crevices, as opposed to the accomplished European man, for whom such instincts had been smoothed away through inherited will to exercise reason.[9]

In Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market (1873) Bagehot seeks to explain the world of finance and banking.[10] His observations on finance are often cited by central bankers, most recently in the wake of the global financial crisis which began in 2007. Of particular importance is "Bagehot's Dictum" that in times of financial crisis central banks should lend freely to solvent depository institutions, yet only against sound collateral and at interest rates high enough to dissuade those borrowers that are not genuinely in need.[11]

Legacy[edit]

Lombard Street, 1873.

Bagehot never fully recovered from a bout of pneumonia he suffered in 1867, and he died in 1877 from complications of what was said to be a cold.[12] Collections of Bagehot's literary, political, and economic essays were published after his death. Their subjects ranged from Shakespeare and Disraeli to the price of silver. In honour of his contributions, The Economist's weekly commentary on current affairs in the UK is entitled "Bagehot". Every year, the British Political Studies Association awards the Walter Bagehot Prize for the best dissertation in the field of government and public administration.

Minor planet 2901 Bagehot discovered by Luboš Kohoutek is named in his honor.[13]

Major publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Selinger, William; Conti, Greg (2015). "Reappraising Walter Bagehot's Liberalism: Discussion, Public Opinion, and the Meaning of Parliamentary Government". History of European Ideas. 41 (2): 264.
  2. ^ Hutton, Richard Holt (1915). "Memoirs." In: The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, Vol. 1. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., pp. 1–54.
  3. ^ Roberts, David H. "Walter Bagehot: A Brief Biography". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Women's Studies Subject Guide: Eliza Wilson". University Archives. The University of Hull. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  5. ^ Walter Bagehot by St. Norman John-Stevas The British Council/National Book League/Longmans, Greene & Co. London. (1963)
  6. ^ Andrew King, John Plunkett (2005). Victorian Print Media: A Reader. Oxford University Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-19-927037-8. National Review (1855–64) one of the most prestigious quarterlies of mid-century
  7. ^ a b Walter Bagehot (1867), The English Constitution (1st ed.), London: Chapman & Hall, OCLC 60724184.
  8. ^ Bagehot, Walter (November 1867). "Physics and Politics. No. I. The Pre-Economic Age". Hathi Trust. Fortnightly Review. Retrieved 17 July 2018. This three-part article was published over the course of three years in the Fortnightly Review: the first section was published in November, 1867; the second section in April, 1868; and the third in July, 1869.
  9. ^ a b Shilliam, Robbie. "How Black Deficit Entered the British Academy" (PDF). robbieshilliam.wordpress.com. Robbie Shilliam. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Bagehot and International Lending". by Professor M. Lipton. The Financial Times (London, England),Tuesday, June 12, 1984; p. 17; edition 29,344.
  11. ^ Paul Tucker, Deputy Governor, Financial Stability, Bank of England, "The Repertoire of Official Sector Interventions in the Financial System: Last Resort Lending, Market-Making, and Capital" Archived 20 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Bank of Japan 2009 International Conference, 27–28 May 2009, p. 5
  12. ^ Roger Kimball, "The Greatest Victorian", The New Criterion October 1998.
  13. ^ "(2901) Bagehot". (2901) Bagehot In: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. 2003. p. 238. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_2902. ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7.

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Barrington, Emilie Isabel Wilson (1933). The Love-letters of Walter Bagehot and Eliza Wilson. London: Faber & Faber
  • Baumann, Arthur Anthony (1916). "Walter Bagehot." In: Persons & Politics of the Transition. London: Macmillan & Co., pp. 121–50
  • Birrell, Augustine (1922). "Walter Bagehot." In: The Collected Essays and Addresses of the Rt. Hon. Augustine Birrell, Vol. 2. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, pp. 213–35
  • Brogan, Hugh (1977). "America and Walter Bagehot," Journal of American Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 335–56
  • Brinton, Crane (1962). "Walter Bagehot." In: English Plolitical Thought in the 19th Century. New York: Harper Torchbooks
  • Clinton, David (2003). "'Dash and Doubt': Walter Bagehot and International Restraint," The Review of Politics, Vol. 65, No. 1, pp. 89–109
  • Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, p. 20
  • Easton, David (1949). "Walter Bagehot and Liberal Realism," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 17–37
  • Edwards, Ruth Dudley (1993). The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993. London: Hamish Hamilton
  • Grant Duff, M.E. (1903). "Walter Bagehot: His Life and Works, 1826–1877." In: Out of the Past. London: John Murray, pp. 1–34
  • Halsted, John B. (1958). "Walter Bagehot on Toleration," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 119–28
  • Hanley, Brian (2004). "'The Greatest Victorian' in the New Century: The Enduring Relevance of Walter Bagehot's Commentary on Literature, Scholarship, and Public Life", Papers on Language and Literature, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 167–98
  • Irvine, William (1939). Walter Bagehot. London: Longmans, Green and Co.
  • Kolbe, F.C. (1908). "Walter Bagehot: An Appreciation," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 36, No. 419, pp. 282–87
  • Morgan, Forrest (1995). Collected Works of Walter Bagehot. Routledge
  • Ostlund, Leonard A. (1956). "Walter Bagehot—Pioneer Social Psychology Theorist," Social Science, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 107–11
  • Spring, David (1976). "Walter Bagehot and Deference," The American Historical Review, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 524–31
  • Stephen, Leslie (1907). "Walter Bagehot." In: Studies of a Biographer, Vol. 3. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, pp. 144–74
  • Stevas, Norman, ed. (1986). The Collected Works of Walter Bagehot: Volumes 1–15. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Westwater, S.A.M. (1977). "Walter Bagehot: A Reassessment," The Antioch Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 39–49
  • Wilson, Woodrow (1895). "A Literary Politician," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 76, No. 457, pp. 668–80
  • Wilson, Woodrow (1898). "A Wit and a Seer," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 82, No. 492, pp. 527–40

External links[edit]