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David Ricardo

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Ricardo's argument that Britain's economy was being held back by the interests of landlords and protectionism, and his call for free trade.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most influential economists from the age of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus. Ricardo (1772 -1823) reputedly made his fortune at the Battle of Waterloo, and he made his lasting impact with his ideas on free trade. At a time when nations preferred to be self-sufficient, to produce all their own food and manufacture their own goods, and to find markets for export rather than import, Ricardo argued for free trade even with rivals for the benefit of all. He contended that existing economic policy unduly favoured landlords above all others and needed to change, and that nations would be less likely to go to war with their trading partners if they were more reliant on each other. For the last two hundred years, Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage in support of free trade has been developed and reinterpreted by generations of economists across the political spectrum.


Matthew Watson
Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick

Helen Paul
Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton


Richard Whatmore
Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

50 minutes

Last on

Thu 25 Mar 2021 21:30



Helen Paul at the University of Southampton

Matthew Watson at the University of Warwick

Richard Whatmore at the University of St Andrews


William Barber, A History of Economic Thought (Penguin, 2009)

Stefan Collini, Donald Winch and John Burrow, That Noble Science of Politics: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press, 1983), especially ‘Higher maxims: Happiness versus wealth in Malthus and Ricardo’ by Donald Winch

Jonathan Conlin (ed.), Great Economic Thinkers: An Introduction from Adam Smith to Amartya Sen (Reaktion, 2018)

Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin, 2000)

Jacob Harry Hollander, David Ricardo: A Centenary Estimate (first published 1968; Palala Press, 2015)

Patricia James, Population Malthus: His Life and Times (Routledge, 2005)

Heinz D. Kurz and Neri Salvadori (eds.), The Elgar Companion to David Ricardo (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015)

Terry Peach, Interpreting Ricardo (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Eric Roll, A History of Economic Thought (Faber, 2002)

Ryan Walter, ‘The Enthusiasm of David Ricardo’ (Modern Intellectual History 15, 2018)

Matthew Watson, ‘Historicising Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage Theory, Challenging the Normative Foundations of Liberal IPE’ (New Political Economy, 22, 2017)

Donald Winch, Riches and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1750-1834 (Cambridge University Press, 1996)


Lectures by Ryan Walter on Ricardo’s Essay on Profits and The Principles of Political Economy – Institute of Intellectual History

Secret Concatenations: Mandeville to Malthus by Donald Winch

David Ricardo - Wikipedia


  • Thu 25 Mar 2021 09:00
  • Thu 25 Mar 2021 21:30

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