Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social-Imperial Thought, 1895-1914

By Bernard Semmel | Go to book overview

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WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM: NATIONAL ECONOMIST

Professor H. S. Foxwell described Archdeacon William Cunningham, in an obituary article, as 'a great National Economist,' in the tradition of Thomas Mun and William Petty.1 The description was most appropriate. As an economist, Cunningham made the preservation and strengthening of the nation-state his most weighty political and economic objective. As an Archdeacon of the Church of England, he sometimes spoke as if the nation-state were the loftiest expression of spiritual life as well. In his later years, he came to regard all of European development as a preparation for the emergence of the national state--and he considered this a worthy final goal of historical evolution,2 He believed the breach with Rome in the time of Henry VIII to have been a declaration of self-sufficiency, evidence of England's recognition that Church and State were twin aspects of the same national community,3 Since that time, he asserted, England had consciously moulded both her political and economic policy to provide for a sound and prosperous national life. Archdeacon Cunningham suggested that there had been but one break in this long tradition of concentration upon the national interest, one reversion to the cosmopolitanism of the pre-Reformation times, the one which had been engineered by the political economists who followed the Free Trade dogmas of Adam Smith, Richard Cobden, and John Bright. Both as economist and as clergyman, the good Archdeacon devoted his energies to battling this most recent cosmopolitan threat to the sacred national community, much as his Tudor ancestors had risen in opposition to the Church of Rome.

William Cunningham was born in the city of Edinburgh in

____________________
1
H. S. Foxwell, and Lilian Knowles, "'Archdeacon Cunningham,'" Economic Journal, September 1919, XXIX, pp. 384-385.
2
William Cunningham, "'Economic Change,'" in Cambridge Modern History ( Cambridge, 1902), I, pp. 495 and 529, and passim.
3
William Cunningham, Christianity and Politics ( Boston, 1915), pp. 32-33:

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