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John Maynard Keynes Biography

first baron Keynes of Tilton (1883–1946), The Economic Consequences of the Peace

British economist, the single most important and influential economist of the twentieth century: born in Cambridge, son of economist John Neville Keynes, educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, of which he became a Fellow. He married Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova (1925) who had come to London with Diaghilev's company. In 1942 he became Baron Keynes of Tilton. In 1919 Keynes resigned from the Treasury over his differences with the official British line at Versailles. His masterful polemic, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), propelled him to international notoriety. At Cambridge, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Keynes's influence on economists was all-pervasive; it was felt by Sir Dennis Robertson, Piero Sraffa, Richard Kahn, Joan Robinson, Sir Austin Robinson, James Meade (subsequently Nobel Laureate in 1977), Sir Richard Stone (Nobel Laureate, 1984), and many foreign graduate students. Keynes was also a legendary Bursar of King's College from 1924; it is said that he claimed that his investment activities had made for the College three fortunes, and lost two. Keynes was a member of the Royal Commission on Indian Finance and Currency (191314), and gave evidence before the Committee on Currency and Foreign Exchanges (known as the Cunliffe Committee, 1918); he was a key member of the Committee on Finance and Industry (known as the Macmillan Committee, 1931), the Economic Advisory Council (19309), and the British Delegation to Bretton Woods (1944).

Keynes's contribution to economic analysis proper was enormous. His first book, Indian Currency and Finance (1913), reflected his involvement in the administration of that country. He was dominant in the debates over the Versailles Treaty and reparations, Britain's return to the gold standard in 1925, policies to promote full employment in the 1920s and 1930s, wartime finance, and the establishment of the IMF and World Bank. A selection of these can be found in his Essays in Persuasion (1931). His two books on monetary theory, A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923) and A Treatise on Money (1930, 2 volumes), carried the orthodox quantity theory of money to its limits (a theory he later repudiated). He wrote exemplary biographical accounts of the life and works of economists: some of these are collected in his Essays in Biography (1933). But Keynes's crucial work is General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), a book that changed the way we look at the economic world. Keynes was also closely connected with literature and the arts. He was a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group. In 1917 he raised £20,000 from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the National Gallery (of which, in 1941, he became a Trustee) for the purchase of items from Degas' private collection, which have become the backbone of the Gallery's collection of modern French painting. Keynes was chiefly responsible for setting up the London Artists' Association; he became Treasurer of the financially troubled Comargo Ballet Company (1931) and handed it over to the Vic-Wells Ballet four years later, financially solvent; he conceived, founded (1936), and managed the Arts Theatre in Cambridge; he was a Chairman of the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (1942) and later of its successor, the Arts Council (1945). The Royal Economic Society has published thirty volumes of his collected writings. There are biographies by Sir Roy Harrod (1951) and Robert Skidelsky (2 volumes: 1983, 1992).

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