The Pre-Career Years
John Maynard Keynes - 1883 to 1905

Date Event
5 June 1883 John Maynard Keynes is born at his parents' home - 6 Harvey Road, Cambridge. He is born into comfortable circumstances, into a household staffed with domestic servants.

His father, John Neville Keynes, is an Economics lecturer at Cambridge University. His mother, one of the first female graduates of Cambridge University, is active in charitable works for less-privileged people. She will later serve as mayor of the city. His parents, who ultimately survived him, lived at 6 Harvey Road throughout Keynes's life.
1888 A four and a half year old Keynes is asked what interest is and replies, "If I let you have a halfpenny and you kept it for a very long time, you would have to give me back that halfpenny and another too."
1890 Keynes attends the Perse School Kindergarten while receiving elementary educational instruction at home.
1892 Keynes becomes a pupil at St Faith's preparatory school. He attends as a day boy (a non-boarder). His academic performance is uneven. He is recognised to be quick at arithmetic and algebra. His large vocabulary is also noted. He is criticised for carelessness.
1893 Keynes's father writes in his diary that St Faith's is driving Keynes too hard. There are lengthy sickness absences from school - Keynes's constitution seems to be rather frail.
June 1894 Keynes is now top of his class at school.
December 1894 A mathematics teacher comments that Keynes, "does really brilliant work" but that he "soon tires and has not perseverance in the face of difficulty."
Late 1896 St Faith's headmaster writes that Maynard is "head and shoulders above all the other boys in the school". He is confident that Keynes could get a scholarship to Eton.
Early 1897 Keynes is preparing for Eton's scholarship exam, beginning work at 7 a.m. each day - the same starting time as the Eton exam.
July 5 1897 Three days of examinations for Eton begin.
July 12 1897 Twenty scholarships for Eton are awarded. Keynes ranks tenth out of twenty overall, and first in mathematics.
September 25 1897 Keynes begins at Eton three days late, following a fever. Keynes is taller than his classmates, his voice has broken and he is intellectually self-confident. His classmates look to him for leadership - he is a natural leader.
December 1897 At the end of his first term at Eton, Keynes places first in classics and second in mathematics.
Early 1898 Ill-health strikes in Keynes's second term at Eton, including a bout of measles. There are frequent absences from classes.
Mid 1898 Keynes wins Eton's Junior Mathematical Prize.
1899 Keynes scores full marks for his essay 'Responsibilities of Empire'. His examination results are considered outstanding - 1,156 out of 1,400.

A teacher writes of him, "in his work there is absolutely nothing of the mercenary, mark-getting feeling... He takes a real interest in anything which it is worthwhile to be interested in."

Keynes tops the select list in the Senior Mathematical Prize.
4 February 1900 The new century sees Britain engaged in the Boer War. Keynes does not join the "Eton Shooters" for military training. He writes to his father, "Some say that patriotism requires one to join the useless Eton shooters, but it seems to me to be the sort of patriotism that requires one to wave the Union Jack."
Mid 1900 Eton's Senior Mathematical Prize is won by Keynes.
25 November 1900 Keynes competes for and wins the Richards English Essay Prize.
26 January 1901 Keynes is elected to the College Pop - Eton's prestigious debating society.
July 1901 The Tomline, Eton's principal mathematical prize, is added to Keynes's ever-growing bag of honours.
July 1902 Keynes wins the Chamberlayne Prize, worth £60 a year for four years, by placing first in the Higher Certificate Examination. He placed first in mathematics and history and first for English essay.
1902 A teacher at Eton, Geoffrey Young, later wrote of Keynes, "His reading had been immense, his selection was admirable, and wit and some well-calculated indiscretions illuminated an astonishingly mature performance. We were listening to something much beyond the range of the normal clever sixth-form boy..."
October 1902 John Maynard Keynes begins at King's College, Cambridge as an undergraduate.

He spends most evenings engaged in social activities, ending each night in endless intellectual arguments with his friends, going to bed at about 3 a.m.

In his first year at university he joins or is invited to join several highly prestigious debating and intellectual societies. Throughout his undergraduate years Keynes is a frequent speaker at the Union - Cambridge's renowned debating society.

His intellectual and social activities will shape Keynes's development more than his formal studies will.

Although he is an intellectual, Keynes does not abandon sport. He wins a cup when his boat wins in the Trail Eights. He plays tennis and golf and is fond of horse riding.
May 1904 Keynes is elected Secretary of the Union, which will lead to his becoming President. He is also elected President of the University Liberal Club. He is awarded a first class in mathematics from King's College.
1904 - 1905 Keynes prepares for Cambridge's Tripos examinations in mathematics while continuing to pursue his other intellectual interests.
June 1905 In the Tripos list, Keynes is ranked in twelfth place, a highly creditable result. For Keynes, however, while some offered congratulations, others offered condolences.


Next: Keynes 1905 to 1914 - The Budding Economist


Source: R.F. Harrod, The Life of John Maynard Keynes