Senior, Nassau William, 1790-1864

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Senior, Nassau William, 1790-1864

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  • Guardian, 1790-1864

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Nassau William Senior (1790-1864), lawyer, author and political economist, was born at Compton Beauchamp, Berkshire, on 26 September 1790. He enrolled at Eton College in 1803 and entered Magdalen College, Oxford in 1806, graduating with a first in Classics in 1811. By this time he had already begun his career in Lincoln's Inn and it was around this time that he began writing reviews and articles of a legal or literary nature for the Quarterly Review. In 1823 he joined the recently formed Political Economy Club, remaining an active member for the next forty years. Senior was Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford, 1826-1829 and 1847-1852, was a member of the Royal Commission of Education, 1858-1861, and acted as an advisor to successive Whig administrations. He became involved in several social concerns, including the rights of factory workers and the socio-economic problems of the poor. In 1837 he published his Letters on the Factory Act as it Affects the Cotton Manufacture and, in 1841, the parliamentary Report on the Condition of the Handloom Weavers. He held the then unorthodox view that government intervention in the form of capital investment should be carried out in an attempt to relieve the problems of the poor in Britain and Ireland. Senior's lifelong friendship with the political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville began when the two men met in London in 1833. Senior travelled widely through Europe, mainly France and Italy, but also to the Middle East, North Africa, Ireland, and Wales and Scotland. Senior married Mary Charlotte Mair in 1821; they had a son Nassau John Senior (1822-1891) and a daughter, Mary Charlotte Mair Senior (1825-1907), latterly Mrs M. C. M. Simpson. He died in Kensington on 4 June 1864. After his death Mrs Simpson published many of his journals.


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