Placing William Foster Lloyd in Context: The Oriel Noetics versus the Christ Church Realists


The enigmatic William F. Lloyd, an individual for whom there are no anecdotes or character sketches from the historical records to draw on, is the subject of this study. In particular, we wish to provide the contemporary (and modern) context for those of Lloyd’s economic ideas that, according to many, anticipated modern theoretical conceptions. The two most famous declarations in which modern concepts are attributed to Lloyd are E. R. A. Seligman’s (1903) conjecture that Lloyd used the law of diminishing marginal utility to derive a modern theory of value, and Garret Hardin’s (1968) assertion that Lloyd was one of the earliest scholars to recognise the tragedy of the commons. We argue that Lloyd developed his economics ideas at the very end of an era in which political economy at Oxford was driven by two charismatic dons, Richard Whately and Charles Lloyd (brother of William F. Lloyd), who operated from power bases at the then two dominant colleges at Oxford—Oriel and Christ Church respectively—and who wielded their influence via their two most famous and more capable charges, Nassau Senior (who Whately prepared for exams) and Robert Peel (who Lloyd prepared for exams). We conclude that William F. Lloyd’s (non-marginalist!) economic framework emerged out of the debates driven by the Whately-Senior and Lloyd-Peel axes and, further, was ultimately deployed to attack the poor law reforms that were being engineered by Senior in the early 1830s.


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The conference was sponsored by The University of Notre Dame, Australia, the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation and the WA Branch of the Economic Society of Australia, and further information may be accessed here