West, Edward (DNB00)

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WEST, Sir EDWARD (1782–1828), economist, the son of Balchen West of St. Marylebone, Middlesex, was born there in 1782. Matriculating from University College, Oxford, on 9 May 1800, he graduated B.A. in 1804, proceeded M.A. in 1807, and was elected fellow of his college. Called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1814, he was appointed recorder of Bombay, and promoted to the office of chief justice on 8 Dec. 1823. He was knighted on 5 July 1822, and died at Bombay in August 1828. ‘Bombay in the Days of George IV: Memoirs of Sir Edward West,’ was edited by Dr. Dawtrey Drewitt in 1908.

In 1815 West published ‘An Essay on the Application of Capital to Land,’ with observations showing the impolicy of any great restriction of the importation of corn, and that the bounty of 1688 did not lower the price of it (London, 8vo), in which he clearly stated the law of diminishing returns and anticipated Ricardo's theory of rent. The law of diminishing returns was suggested to him by the evidence given before the corn committees of 1813–14, and it is probable that ‘the form in which’ that doctrine ‘was subsequently taught and the phraseology in which it was expressed’ (Cannan) are largely due to him. When Ricardo published his ‘Principles’ in 1817 he stated that Malthus and West had ‘presented to the world nearly at the same moment the true doctrine of rent’ (Principles of Political Economy, Preface). West also published ‘The Price of Corn and Wages of Labour, with Observations upon Dr. Smith's, Mr. Ricardo's, and Mr. Malthus's Doctrines upon those Subjects, and an Attempt at an Exposition of the Causes of the Fluctuations of the Price of Corn during the last thirty years,’ London, 1826, 8vo.

[Bombay in the Days of George IV ed. Drewitt, 1908; Times, 29 Jan. 1829; McCulloch's Lit. of Political Economy, pp. 33, 78; Bonar's Malthus and his Work, pp. 222, 234–5, 240; Cannan's Theories of Production and Distribution.]

W. A. S. H.