David Ricardo: Correspondence and Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises four groups of papers:

1. Ricardo Papers. Ricardo's private papers. These include MSS of several works, the most extensive being the Notes on Malthus, which consitute over 400 pages. There are drafts of Ricardo's letters and the letters he received, including around 70 from Thomas Malthus, over 40 from James Mill, and over 30 from John Ramsey McCulloch. There is also the Journal of a Tour on the Continent, and a number of family and business letters.

2. Mill-Ricardo Papers. These consist of over 50 letters from Ricardo to James Mill and the MSS of several unpublished works by Ricardo, which were sent to Mill when he died, and include a paper on Value.

3. Letters to Thomas Malthus, circa 90 letters.

4. Letters to Ricardo's brother-in-law, J.H. Wilkinson.

The collection also includes correspondence and papers from the twentieth-century concerning the Ricardo Papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

David Ricardo (1772-1823), MP and economist, was educated partly in England, and during his twelfth and thirteenth years at an uncle's in Holland, the land of his father. He had no classical training, and was employed in his father's business at the age of 14. He married in 1793, and proceeded to set up in business for himself, making a fortune and acquiring a high reputation. Ricardo was interested in scientific movements, and was one of the original members of the Geological Society, founded in 1807. His writing on the state of currency in 1809 helped his growing reputation as an authority on economics, and led to warm friendships with Thomas Malthus and James Mill. Later pamphlets established Ricardo as a leading figure on economical questions. He published his main work, 'Principles of Political Economy and Taxation' in 1817. He bought the estate of Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire in 1813, and retired from business in the following year. In 1819 he became the Member of Parliament for the Irish borough of Portarlington, and held the seat until his death.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Piero Sraffa, 1955.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Ricardo in Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XVI, pp.979-982 (London, 1909).

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Custodial History

The Ricardo Papers (1) were previously the property of Frank Ricardo; the Mill-Ricardo Papers (2) of C.K. Mill; the Letters to Malthus (3) of R. Malthus; and the Letters to J.H. Wilkinson (4) of Canon H.R. Wilkinson.