The Guillaumin Network and the Paris School of Political Economy

[The Molière Fountain on the rue de Richelieu (down the left). The Guillaumin firm was located at no. 14 rue de Richelieu.]

Note: See also the following:

  • my blog post on “A Publishing History of the Guillaumin Firm (1837-1910)” (5 Aug. 2022) here
  • my summary webpage on The Paris School
  • a brief description of the Guillaumin firm and my list of their publications: “Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801-64) and the Guillaumin Publishing Firm (1837-1910)” here

[This post is an excerpt from my longer paper on the Paris School. See this for the full references of works cited.]

One of the most important innovations for the consolidation of the Paris School as a serious, organised, and influential intellectual movement came from the entrepreneurial activities of Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (1801–1864) who founded the publishing firm which bore his name in 1837.[1] He had become active in politics in the 1820s when he joined the radical democratic and republican Carbonari movement. This may explain his later support for some of the more radical members of the Paris School whose work the firm would later publish, such as Charles Coquelin, Frédéric Bastiat, and Gustave de Molinari, in spite of the objections of many of the more mainstream members of the school. The Guillaumin firm would become the focal point for the Paris School for the next 74 years, channelling money which he helped raise from wealthy benefactors (such as the merchant Horace Say (son of Jean-Baptiste) and the industrialist Casimir Cheuvreux) into the pockets of several generations of liberal political economists. The historian Gérard Minart correctly calls this “le réseau Guillaumin” (the Guillaumin network) given the number of individuals, groups, associations, and activities Guillaumin founded, financed, or put in touch with each other.[2]

The firm commissioned books on economics (publishing a total of 2,356 titles between 1837 and 1910 at an average rate of 31.8 titles per year),[3] began the Journal des Économistes in December 1841 (it lasted nearly 100 years until the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 forced it to close),[4] and the Société d’économie politique in 1842 which became the main organization which brought classical liberals,[5] sympathisers in the intellectual and political elites of France, and foreign visitors together for discussion and debate at their monthly dinner meetings, presided over by the Society’s permanent president Charles Dunoyer.

The publishing strategy of the Guillaumin firm was a sophisticated one which proved to be very successful over many decades. It was designed to attract a broad range of authors as well as readers from different ideological perspectives, not just the hard core of radical laissez-faire advocates. It attracted businessmen with its first commercial success, an Encyclopédie du commerçant. Dictionnaire du commerce et des marchandises (A Dictionary of Commerce and Goods) (1837, 1839, 1841)[6] and other titles dealing with how to buy shares on the stock exchange, bankruptcy law, and trade marks. Its staple was the monthly Journal des Économistes[7] and the annual compendium of statistics and economic data Annuaire de l’économie politique et de la statistique (founded 1844) edited by Guillaumin and Joseph Garnier.[8]

On more theoretical matters, it published in book form the lectures given by Pellegrino Rossi, Michel Chevalier, and Joseph Garnier at the universities and colleges in order to give them a far greater audience. It published dozens of books on economic and financial history, especially on tax, government finance, and pubic credit. It published a steady stream of books dealing with poverty and the social question. A very large academic project it undertook in 1840 was to publish a large collection in 15 volumes of key works in the history of economic thought which was edited by a former tax collector turned editor Eugène Daire (1798–1847) which began by republishing the main works of J.B Say before turning to works on eighteenth-century finance, the physiocrats, Turgot, Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Hume, and Bentham. This project was notably also for its use of the young generation of rising economists like Alcide Fonteyraud and Gustave de Molinari as editors of some of the volumes, thus giving them much needed income as well as helping them make a name for themselves as scholars.[9]

Finally, they were also keen to demonstrate the new directions in which the Paris School was moving by publishing innovative works by some of the more radical members of the Guillaumin network, such as Coquelin, Du Crédit et des Banques (1848) on free banking, Molinari, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare (1849) on free market alternatives to public goods provided by the state, Bastiat, Harmonies économiques (1850, 1851), which was his controversial and in part proto-Austrian theoretical treatise,[10] and Ce que l’on voit et ce que l’on ne voit pas ou l’économie politique en une leçon (1850) which was a pioneering work using the idea of opportunity cost to argue against many forms of government expenditure and regulation.

In addition to the publishing firm there were several other groups and organisations which were part of the broader “Guillaumin network” of economists and their friends and allies. These included the French Free Trade Association,[11] the Congrès des Économistes,[12] the Friends of Peace Congress,[13] and the private Paris salons held by Anne Say (née Cheuvreux, the wife of the businessman Horace Say) and Hortense Cheuvreux (the wife the the wealthy textile manufacturer Casimir Cheuvreux).[14]

However, the pinnacle of the Paris School’s achievement in this period was their compendium of “irrefutable” arguments and economic data which would answer all their protectionist, interventionist, and socialist critics – the Dictionnaire de l’économie politique (1852–53).[15] The DEP is a two volume, 1,854 page, double-columned encyclopedia of political economy and is unquestionably one of the most important publishing events in the history of 19th century French classical liberal thought and is unequalled in its scope and comprehensiveness. The aim was to assemble a compendium of the state of knowledge of liberal political economy with articles written by leading economists on key topics, biographies of important historical figures, annotated bibliographies of the most important books in the field, and tables of economic and political statistics. The Economists believed that the events of the 1848 Revolution had shown how poorly understood the principles of economics were among the French public, especially its political and intellectual elites. One of the tasks of the DEP was to rectify this situation with an easily accessible summary of the entire discipline. The major contributors were the editor Charles Coquelin (with 70 major articles), Gustave de Molinari (29), Horace Say (29), Joseph Garnier (28), Ambroise Clément (22), Courcelle-Seneuil (21), and Maurice Block wrote most of the biographical entries. The intellectual ghost floating over the entire project was the recently deceased Frédéric Bastiat. If his health had not been failing rapidly he might have been expected to have played a major role in its production. The editor Coquelin paid homage to him by using large chunks of Bastiat’s essays for two of the key entries in the DEP on “The State” and “The Law.”

Sadly, as the century was coming to a close and as classical liberal ideas were becoming less and less influential, the Guillaumin firm tried to repeat the exercise with an updated version of the DEP in 1891, interestingly edited by Jean-Baptiste Say’s grandson Léon, but with little obvious success in halting the tide of opinion.[16]


  1. It should be noted that the Swiss-born land surveyor and translator Théodore Fix (1800–1846) made a false start in creating a journal dedicated to political economy. He and Adolphe Blanqui founded the Revue mensuelle d’économie politique (1833–36) which was initially influenced by Sismondi’s paternalistic interventionism concerning support for the poor and working class but gradually turned in a more free market direction under the influence of Rossi and Blanqui. It was an important precursor to JDE but failed because it lacked the financial backing Guillaumin would be able to provide later. His only book was on the social question Observations sur l’état des classes ouvrières (1846).  ↩
  2. Minart, Gustave de Molinari, p. 56. The economist Henri Baudrillart called it “le centre et le lien de notre école” (the centre and connecting point of our school of thought). Henri Baudrillart is quoted in Joseph Garnier, “Guillaumin. Ses funérailes, – sa vie et son oeuvre” (JDE, 1865). Quote comes from p. 111. Lucette Levan-Lemesle, “Guillaumin, Éditeur d’Économie politique 1801–1864” (1985).  ↩
  3. The Guillaumin firm published 2,356 titles between its founding in 1837 and its take-over by Félix Alcan in 1906 at an average rate of 31.8 titles per year. In the last years of the July Monarchy 1837–1847 it published 156 books and pamphlets at a rate of 14 p.a.; during the Second Republic 1848–52 it published 204 titles at a rate of 41 p.a. Its peak year was 1848, the year of Revolution, during which it published 67 titles. See the list of publications compiled by Benoît Malbranque, “Liste complète des titres publiés par Guillaumin (1837–1910)” (2017).  ↩
  4. Michel Lutfalla, “Aux Origines du liberalisme economique en France: le Journal des Économistes; Analyse du contenu de la premiere serie, 1841–53” (1974).  ↩
  5. Breton, Yves. “The Société d’économie politique of Paris (1842–1914)” (2001).  ↩
  6. It was inspired by the success of J.R. McCulloch’s A Dictionary, Practical, Theoretical and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation (1832) and was designed to serve the specific needs of French businessmen and traders.  ↩
  7. The Journal des économistes was launched in December 1841 and appeared of the 15th of every month. The editors in our period were Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin (December 1841), Adolphe Blanqui (1842–43), Hippolyte Dussard (1843–45), and Joseph Garnier (1845–55). It contained a combination of theoretical articles, analysis of current economic policy, book reviews, reports of debates in the Chamber of Deputies, and minutes of meetings of the Political Economy Society.  ↩
  8. The Annuaire appeared for 56 years until it ended in 1899.  ↩
  9. Fonteyraud edited the volume on Ricardo, translating some of his work for the first time into French and writing a very detailed introduction and notes. Molinari did the two last volumes in the series on Hume, Franklin, Bentham, and other 18th century authors.  ↩
  10. Rothbard coined the term “proto-Austrian” to describe J.B. Say but it also applies equally well to Bastiat. Rothbard, Classical Economics, p. 21.  ↩
  11. The French Free Trade Association was founded on 23 February 1846 in Bordeaux and then a National Association followed on 10 May based in Paris. Bastiat was the secretary of the Board, which was presided over by François d’Harcourt and having among its members Michel Chevalier, Auguste Blanqui, Joseph Garnier, Gustave de Molinari, and Horace Say. The journal of the Association was called Le Libre-Échange and was edited and largely written by Bastiat. The first issue appeared on 29 November 1846 and it closed on 16 April 1848 after 72 issues, when the economists decided to focus their attention on fighting the rise of socialism.  ↩
  12. The Congrès des Économistes was founded by the Belgian Free Trade Association and organised by Le Hardy de Beaulieu and Charles de Brouckère. A European-wide congress was held in Brussels in September 1847 which was attended by 170 people who were a “who’s who” of the leading advocates of liberal political economy in Europe. It was attended by a large contingent from France, including Horace Say, Charles Dunoyer, Guillaumin, Joseph Garnier, Alcide Fonteyraud, the Duke d’Harcourt, Adolphe Blanqui, Louis Wolowski, and Gustave de Molinari. The Congress was also attended by Karl Marx but it is not known if he met any of the French political economists. See, Congrès des Économistes réunis à Bruxelles (1847). Attendee list pp. 5–9. The speech Marx intended to give at the Congress, but was not allowed to, can be found in Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, vol. 6 (2010),; Frederick Engels, “The Economic Congress”, pp. 274–78, Karl Marx, “The Protectionists, the Free Traders and the Working Class,” pp. 279–81, Frederick Engels, “The Free Trade Congress at Brussels,” pp. 282–90.  ↩
  13. The third Friends of Congress was held in Paris in August 1849 (22–24th) chaired by the novelist Victor Hugo and where Bastiat gave an important speech “Disarmament, Taxes, and the Influence of Political Economy on the Peace Movement.” Molinari and Coquelin formally represented the Political Economy Society at the Congress, Molinari wrote a detailed report on its proceedings for the JDE, and Joseph Garnier edited the proceedings which were published by Guillaumin. Garnier, Joseph. Congrès des amis de la paix universelle (1850). Molinari, “Le Congrès de la paix, à Paris” (JDE, 1849).  ↩
  14. Mme Hortense Cheuvreux (née Girard) (1808–93) was married to the wealthy textile manufacturer Pierre-Casimir Cheuvreux (1797–1881) who was a major funder of the economists’s activities. Their luxurious home in Paris was where Mme Cheuvreux’s salons were held. Bastiat with his “Rabelaisian” wit, prodigious memory for literature, and musical skills (he played the cello) was a star attraction, along with the scientist Ampère, the priest Gratry, and Alexis de Tocqueville. Twenty seven years after his death Hortense Cheuvreux published a volume of Bastiat’s letters to her in which some of these events are described, Bastiat, Lettres d’un habitant des Landes (1877).  ↩
  15. Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, Coquelin and Guillaumin, eds. (1852–53).  ↩
  16. Nouveau Dictionnaire d’Économie Politique, eds. Léon Say and Joseph Chailley (1891–92).  ↩