William Ashley (economic historian)

William Ashley (Economic Historian)

William Ashley (economic historian)

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Sir William James Ashley (25 February 1860 – 23 July 1927) was an influential English economic historian. His greatest work of note is The Economic Organisation of England, still a set text on many A-level and University syllabuses.

Life and career

Ashley was born in Bermondsey, South LondonJ. H. Clapham, "Sir William Ashley", The Economic Journal, Vol. 37, No. 148 (Dec., 1927), p. 678.Anne Ashley, William James Ashley: A Life, London, P.S. King (1932). The marginal life of his early years was shaped by the cyclical underemployment of his father, a journeyman hatter; his skepticism of free trade economics may have originated from his observations during his formative years. He was educated at St Olave's Grammar School and then at Balliol College, Oxford. He escaped the near-choiceless world of his youth through academic brilliance and, ultimately, by winning the 1878 Brackenbury history scholarship to Balliol College, which was then pursuing social uplift policies under the mastership of the legendary Benjamin Jowett. At Oxford he was influenced by Jowett, Bishop William Stubbs, and especially by the economic historian, Arnold Toynbee.

Ashley was appointed Lecturer at Lincoln College, Oxford in 1885. In July of 1888 he married Margaret Hill, daughter of George Birkbeck Hill, and in summer of that year he and his bride sailed to Canada to his new academic...
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