The Budding Economist
John Maynard Keynes - 1905 to 1913

Date Event
Summer 1905 Keynes spends summer enjoying a mountain climbing holiday in Switzerland and with his family. He also does some serious reading - Marshall's Principles of Economics.
Autumn 1905 Keynes returns to Cambridge to attend economics lectures by Marshall, the author of his summer time reading. Marshall writes to Keynes's father:

"Your son is doing excellent work in Economics. I have told him that I should be greatly delighted if he should decide on the career of a professional economist."

Keynes writes to Strachey:

"I find Economics increasingly satisfactory, and I think I am rather good at it. I want to manage a railway or organise a Trust, or at least swindle the investing public."
February 1906 In one of his frequent letters to his friend G.L. Strachey Keynes writes, "I am studying Ethics for my Civil Service." (Keynes is preparing for the Civil Service entrance examinations.)
August 1906 Keynes sits the Civil Service examinations in London between 3 August and 25 August.
October 1906 The results of his civil service exams infuriate Keynes. He writes to Strachey:

"I have done worst in the only two subjects of which I possessed a solid knowledge - Mathematics and Economics. I scored more marks for English History than for Mathematics - is it credible? For Economics I got a relatively low percentage and was eight or ninth in order of merit - whereas I knew the whole of both papers in a really elaborate way. On the other hand, in Political Science, to which I devoted less than a fortnight in all, I was easily first of everybody. I was also first in Logic and Psychology and in Essay."

He was later to say "I evidently knew more about Economics than my examiners."
Late 1906 Keynes is offered and accepts a position in London with the civil service, working in the India Office. He will work there for the next two years while probing probability theory in his spare time. Much of this "spare time" seems to occur at work where he says, "I have not averaged an hour's office work a day this week so that I am well up to date with the (probability) dissertation."
April 1907 Keynes is now working hard in the Revenue, Statistics and Commerce Department of the India Office, which he enjoys. He writes, "I really believe that I have written almost every despatch in the Department this week."
September 1907 "I'm thoroughly sick of this place and would like to resign. Now the novelty has worn off I'm bored nine-tenths of the time and rather unreasonably irritated the other tenth whenever I can't have my own way," Keynes writes.
October 1907 Hoping to obtain a fellowship at King's College, Keynes spends a fortnight in Cambridge working on his probability dissertation. He fails to obtain a fellowship.
June 1908 Keynes resigns from the India office to work on probability theory in Cambridge. He will receive £100 each year from his father and the same amount, paid privately, from Pigou, the chair of Economics at Cambridge.
19 January 1909 Keynes begins lecturing at Cambridge University three times a week on Money, Credit and Prices.
2 February 1909 In a letter to his friend, Duncan Grant, Keynes writes, "I have received today the offer of an appointment - to be representative of H.M.'s Government on the Permanent International Commission for Agriculture at Rome. Salary £500 increasing; duties practically nil. Shall I accept?
March 1909 On the basis of his dissertation in Probability, Keynes is elected a Fellow of King's College - adding £120 per annum to his income.
Spring 1909 The Economist publishes a series of letters from Keynes arguing that estimates of British investments in India are exaggerated.
May 1909 Keynes wins the Adam Smith Prize (£60) for an essay on Index numbers.
15 October 1909 "I seem to spend most of my time seeing pupils. I have already got eighteen of these, which will be rather hard work, but ought to bring in nearly £60."
7 November 1909 Keynes reports to his father that his income has reached £700 per annum, including the money his father gives him.
January 1910 In the General Election campaign Keynes travels to Birmingham for five days to support his old friend Edward Hilton Young who is standing for East Worcester as a Liberal.
September 1911 After a tour of Ireland with Liberal politicians, Keynes writes to Duncan Grant, "You have not, I suppose, ever mixed with politicians at close quarters. They are awful... their stupidity is inhuman... The rest of them had minds and opinions as deplorable as their characters."
Autumn 1911 Keynes becomes the editor of the Economics Journal - a considerable honour.
Autumn 1912 Keynes is elected to 'the council' the body that governs King's College. He was elected the previous year to the Estates Committee and now has motions attacking the amount of cash held by the college and querying the running of the college carried. His motion calling for a pay increase for College Fellows is defeated.
Early 1913 Keynes completes his first major work on Economics - Indian Currency and Finance. He persuades MacMillan, his publisher, to share profits from this and other books 50/50. (By 1942 4,900 copies have sold, netting Keynes £295.)
3 April 1913 Before his book is published, Keynes is offered and accepts a seat on a Royal Commission to enquire into Indian Finance and Currency.
12 August 1913 Austen Chamberlain writes to Keynes, "You will certainly be considered the author of the Commission's report... I am amazed to see how largely the views of the Commission... are a mere repetition of the arguments and conclusions to which your study had previously led you."

Next: Keynes 1914 to 1919 - War and Reparations

R.F. Harrod, The Life of John Maynard Keynes
Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes Volume One: Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920.