Publication Date


Document Type

Working Paper


Professor John Hall

Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes

B12, B17, B31, Q17

Key Words

Comparative Advantage, Corn Laws, David Ricardo, Law of Rent, Natural Wage


This inquiry seeks to establish that although hardly recognized, Robert Torrens’ contributions prove significant and also provided bases for advances later credited to David Ricardo. In his first published work, An Essay on the External Corn Trade [1815], Torrens discusses at length the negative consequences of Britain’s Corn Laws, based upon the practice of restricting foreign corn imports. Through this prescient work, Torrens should be considered as the first to advance several concepts and principles that prove foundational for classical economic thought. Though attributed to David Ricardo, the principle of comparative advantage was actually first described by Torrens and another unknown author. Torrens also offered insights into theories of rent well prior to Ricardo. In addition, Torrens’ influences on Ricardo’s understanding of a natural wage must also be noted. Though Ricardo attributes a section of his work to Torrens, it shall be argued that Ricardo tends to downplay the degrees to which he relies upon Torrens’ advances.


© Mitchell Veele

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