18th century Irish economist
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  • Richard Cantillon (1680s - May 1734) was an Irish-French economist and author of Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général (Essay on the Nature of Trade in General), a book considered by William Stanley Jevons to be the "cradle of political economy". Although little information exists on Cantillon's life, it is known that he became a successful banker and merchant at an early age. His success was largely derived from the political and business connections he made through his family and through an early employer, James Brydges. During the late 1710s and early 1720s, Cantillon speculated in, and later helped fund, John Law's Mississippi Company, from which he acquired great wealth. However, his success came at a cost to his debtors, who pursued him with lawsuits, criminal charges and even murder plots until his death in 1734.


    14 May 1734, in Mayfair, London

    Web Pages

    Richard Cantillon - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes short biography and link to the 1959 edition of the Essai
    "Richard Cantillon, Irish born but living in Paris as a young man, from circumstances became a banker/broker there, and moved in influential, educated social circles. Intrigue, murder, posthumous plagiarism, citations by Adam Smith, rediscovery by William Stanley Jevons a century later, and a stunning work on entrepreneurial risk, money, foreign exchange, and banking from the 1700s, are all pieces of the continuing puzzle that surrounds him."


    Richard Cantillon - Selected primary works
    List of 12 primary works, effectively editions and translations of the Essai, and ten secondary works


    Cantillon for Laymen, by Karen De Coster, Mises Daily, 7 Jun 2006
    Discusses the themes in Cantillon's Essai in general terms, including a short biographical section
    "Cantillon's book was written during an era of mercantilist ascendancy in France. He diverged from that set, mostly because he didn't arrive at his analysis via an unstructured amalgamation of judgments geared toward specific political ends. Rather, he was the first theorist to maintain an 'independent area of investigation — economics — and to write a general treatise on all its aspects.' ... This set Cantillon apart from his politically influential mercantilist counterparts, and has led many scholars, to label him — not Adam Smith — the father of modern economics ..."
    Life and Work of Richard Cantillon, by Henry Higgs, 1959
    Concluding essay to the 1959 edition of the Essai, edited and translated by Henry Higgs, pp. 363-389
    "Richard Cantillon the economist, according to the Revue historique a first cousin of the Chevalier, was probably born between 1680 and 1690. He married in 1722 Mary Anne Mahony, daughter of Daniel Mahony, a rich merchant of Paris. ... Mirabeau says he could not keep so rare a manuscript to himself and proposed to publish it. ... Mirabeau says the manuscript had been in his possession for sixteen years till he was compelled to restore it to its rightful owner, and it is from this manuscript that the Essai was printed [in 1755]. It is vain to speculate who this rightful owner and intimate friend of Cantillon was."
    Related Topic: Jean-Baptiste Say
    The Origin of Economic Theory: A Portrait of Richard Cantillon (1680-1734), by Mark Thornton, 3 Aug 2007
    Examines the sections of Cantillon's Essai relating them to episodes in the author's life, then delving into several Austrian economics insights that can be found in the work
    "Many crucial Austrian insights have been found in the economics of Irish banker Richard Cantillon1 (1680–1734) and his lone surviving publication, Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General. It seems clear that Cantillon was an important influence on the development of Austrian economics, and that he can be considered a member of the Austrian School. ... The key episode in Cantillon's life was his involvement with John Law and his monetary schemes. Cantillon was opposed to the inflationist theories of Law, but he understood how the schemes worked and what their fatal flaws were."

    Books Authored

    Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General, 1730
    Partial contents: Of Wealth - Of Human Societies - Of Villages - Of Market Towns - Of Metals and Money, and especially of Gold and Silver - Of Barter - Of Market Prices - Of the Circulation of Money - Of Foreign Trade - Of the Exchanges and their Nature
    Related Topic: Economics

    The introductory paragraph uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.