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John Maynard Keynes

The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems – the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion”.

Keynes was a British economist and one of the most influential of the 20th century.

John Maynard Keynes was born on 5 June 1883 in Cambridge into a well-to-do academic family. His father was an economist and a philosopher, his mother became the town’s first female mayor. He excelled academically at Eton as well as Cambridge University, where he studied mathematics. He also became friends with members of the Bloomsbury group of intellectuals and artists.

After graduating, Keynes went to work in the India Office, and simultaneously managed to work on a dissertation – often during office hours – which earned him a fellowship at King’s College. In 1908, he quit the civil service and returned to Cambridge. Following the outbreak of World War One, Keynes joined the treasury, and in the wake of the Versailles peace treaty, he published ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace’ in which he criticised the exorbitant war reparations demanded from a defeated Germany and prophetically predicted that it would foster a desire for revenge among Germans. This best-selling book made him world famous.

During the inter-war years, Keynes amassed a considerable personal fortune from the financial markets and, as bursar of King’s College, greatly improved the college’s financial position. He became a prominent arts patron and board member of a number of companies. Though he was openly gay, he married Lydia Lopokova, a Russian ballerina in 1926.

Keynes’ best-known work, ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’, was published in 1936, and became a benchmark for future economic thought. It also secured his position as Britain’s most influential economist, and with the advent of World War Two, he again worked for the treasury. In 1942, he was made a member of the house of lords.

During the war years, Keynes played a decisive role in the negotiations that were to shape the post-war international economic order. In 1944, he led the British delegation to the Bretton Woods conference in the United States. At the conference he played a significant part in the planning of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He died on 21 April 1946.

 

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