Born in 1883, the year that Karl Marx died, John Maynard Keynes was an unlikely savior of the working class. Raised in Cambridge, England, by academic parents, he lived a life of privilege. He won a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he studied mathematics, then spent time working for the British government in India and published his first book: Indian Currency and Finance. Keynes was an advisor at both the Paris Peace Conference after World War I and at the Bretton Woods Conference after World War II. He always did several things at once—while writing The General Theory, he built a theater, and he counted leading writers and artists among his friends. In his 1936 book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes spearheaded a revolution in economic thinking, challenging the ideas of neoclassical economics which held that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. He instead argued that in the short to medium run aggregate demand determined the overall level of economic activity and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment. He built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential economists of the 20th century and the founder of modern macroeconomics. Keynes made his fortune on the stock market and used much of it to support his artist friends. He died of heart problems in 1946.

Key works: 1919 The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1923 A Tract on Monetary Reform, 1930 A Treatise on Money, 1936 The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

Link to the History of Economic Thought Website

A Keynes for All Seasons The Economist

Obituary of Keynes 1946 The Economist

Keynes Retrospective, Time