Walter Bagehot

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Walter Bagehot
Walter Bagehot NPG cropped.jpg
Portrait of Walter Bagehot
Born(1826-02-03)3 February 1826
Langport, Somerset, England
Died24 March 1877(1877-03-24) (aged 51)
Langport, Somerset, England
NationalityBritish
OccupationBusinessman, essayist, journalist
SignatureWalter Bagehot signature.png
 
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Walter Bagehot
Walter Bagehot NPG cropped.jpg
Portrait of Walter Bagehot
Born(1826-02-03)3 February 1826
Langport, Somerset, England
Died24 March 1877(1877-03-24) (aged 51)
Langport, Somerset, England
NationalityBritish
OccupationBusinessman, essayist, journalist
SignatureWalter Bagehot signature.png

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

Life[edit]

Bagehot was born in Langport, Somerset, England, on 3 February 1826. His father, Thomas Walter Bagehot, was managing director and vice-chairman of Stuckey's Banking Company. He attended University College London (UCL), where he studied mathematics, and in 1848 earned a master's degree in moral philosophy.[1] 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.

Journalism[edit]

In 1855 Bagehot founded the National Review with his friend Richard Holt Hutton.[2][3] In 1860, he became editor-in-chief of The Economist, which had been founded by his father-in-law, James Wilson. In the seventeen years he served as its editor Bagehot expanded The Economist's reporting on politics, and increased its influence among policymakers.

Books[edit]

In 1867, Bagehot wrote The English Constitution, 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), in which he examines how civilizations sustain themselves, arguing that in their earliest phase civilizations 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.

In Lombard Street (1873) Bagehot seeks to explain the world of finance and banking. 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, only against good collateral and at interest rates that are high enough to dissuade those borrowers that are not genuinely in need.[4]

Legacy[edit]

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.[5] 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.

Selected works[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]