Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman

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Edwin R. A. Seligman
Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman, 1910.jpg
Born(1861-04-25)April 25, 1861
DiedJuly 18, 1939(1939-07-18) (aged 78)
InstitutionColumbia University
Alma materColumbia University
John Burgess
B. R. Ambedkar
Paul Douglas
Robert Murray Haig
Alvin Saunders Johnson

Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman (1861–1939), was an American economist who spent his entire academic career at Columbia University in New York City. Seligman is best remembered for his pioneering work involving taxation and public finance.


Early years[edit]

Edwin Seligman was born April 25, 1861 in New York City, the son of banker Joseph Seligman.

Seligman attended Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1879 with a A.B..[1] Seligman continued his studies in Europe, attending courses for three years at the universities of Berlin, Heidelberg, Geneva, and Paris.[2] He earned his M.A. and LL.B. degrees in 1885 and successfully defended a Ph.D. in 1885.[1] He later was awarded a LL.D. in 1904.


Seligman spent his entire academic career at Columbia University, first joining as a lecturer in 1885.[1] He was made an adjunct professor of political economy in 1888.[2] He became the first McVickar Professor of Political Economy at the same university in 1904, a position which he occupied until 1931.[1]

Seligman's academic work dealt largely with matters of taxation and public finance, and he was regarded as a leading proponent of the progressive income tax.[1] He also taught courses at Columbia in the field of economic history.[1]

From 1886 Seligman was one of the editors of the Political Science Quarterly. He also edited Columbia's series in history, economics, and public law from 1890.

Seligman was a founder of the American Economic Association and served as president of that organization from 1902 to 1904.[1] He was also a key figure behind the formation of the American Association of University Professors, serving as that group's president from 1919 to 1920.[1]

Seligman dedicated a great deal of effort to the question of public finance during World War I and was a prominent advocate of the establishment of a progressive income tax as a basis for the funding of government operations.

Although a proponent of the economic interpretation of history, commonly associated with Marxism, Seligman was an opponent of socialism and appeared in public debates opposing prominent radical figures during the early 1920s, including such figures as Scott Nearing and Harry Waton.[3]

Seligman's later academic work revolved around questions of tax policy and consumer finance.

Among his students was B.R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution of India.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Edwin Seligman died July 18, 1939. His beliefs were highly influential with Charles A. Beard, who was an academic colleague at Columbia.[5] In particular, Seligman's economic viewpoints to history helped inform Beard's work An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.[6]


Books and pamphlets[edit]

Selected articles[edit]

  • "Economists," in Cambridge History of English and American Literature, 1907.
  • "The Crisis of 1907 in the Light of History," in Edwin R.A. Seligman (ed.), The Currency Problem and the Present Financial Situation: A Series of Addresses Delivered at Columbia University 1907-1908. New York: Columbia University Press, 1908.
  • "Recent Reports on State and Local Taxation," American Economic Review, 1911.
  • "The Crisis in Social Evolution," in Albert Bushnell Hart, et al., Problems of Readjustment After the War. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1915.
  • "Tax Exemption Through Tax Capitalization: A Reply," American Economic Review, 1916.
  • "Loans versus Taxes in War Finance," in Financing the War. Philadelphia: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 75, 1918.
  • "Who is the Twentieth Century Mandeville?" American Economic Review, 1918.
  • "Are Stock Dividends Income?" American Economic Review, 1919.
  • "The Cost of the War and How It Was Met," American Economic Review, vol. 9, no. 4 (Dec. 1919), pp. 739–770.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Leon Applebaum, "Edwin R. A. Seligman," in John D. Buenker and Edward R. Kantowicz (eds.), Historical Dictionary of the Progressive Era, 1890-1920. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988; pp. 425-426.
  2. ^ a b Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Seligman, Edwin Robert Anderson" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ See the published stenograms of debates with Nearing (1921) and Waton (1922).
  4. ^ "Letter from Ambedkar to Seligman". Columbia University. 16 Feb 1922. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  5. ^ The Reader's Companion to American History, by Eric Foner
  6. ^ Historians in Public: The Practice of American History, 1890-1970

External links[edit]