Jevons in Australia: how social liberalism realised an economist, 1854-1859
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:44 by Jordan Michael Heckendorf
William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) was a nineteenth century economist. His early life in Australia (1854-59) altered his life trajectory and forged a social scientist. Many notable scholars have insinuated the importance of Jevons’ time in Australia, including John Maynard Keynes (1936), but how this formation of his focus in political economy was undertaken, and how his colonial activities actually constituted his ‘turn’, has not fully been analysed with respect to his historical, intellectual or social context. Trained in chemistry, and working at the Sydney Mint, Jevons’ interests expanded wider, and were expressed in the colonial publications of the time. He published meteorological recordings, participated in the newspaper railway debates, and conducted a social survey of late-1850s Sydney. Through this participation in, and exposure to, the colonial political economy of New South Wales, Jevons would come to acquire and express a profound interest in the social science of the colony. The colonial activities of writing, and his private reflections demonstrate the maturation of a man, and his development valuable skillsets. His sinecure position at the Sydney Mint granted him the ability to deeply reflect and acquire a visceral social liberalism, which altered his trajectory, and made him a more devoted social thinker. Without this time in Australia, Jevons’ transition to a focus in political economy, may not have happened. The major agent of change during this period was his social liberalism. This thesis, therefore, argues that the mid-nineteenth century context was significant to Jevons’ transition towards becoming an economist.