The school's history

The School of Economics, Finance and Management can trace its roots back to the very beginnings of the University of Bristol. The current school came into being in 2004 with the joining of the individual departments of Economics, Accounting and Finance, and Management. The departments retain their distinctive characteristics, but take advantages of synergies between them for teaching and research.

Alfred Marshall moved from Cambridge to take up his position as the first Professor of Political Economy and the first Principal of University College Bristol (the future University of Bristol). Marshall had just married his wife, Mary Paley, and at that time Cambridge did not permit married fellows. At this stage in his career he had published virtually nothing, and so was taking a big risk by resigning his fellowship. Fortunately for him and for Bristol, an impressive list of referees, including Henry Sidgewick and Stanley Jevons, spoke of his great promise and he was appointed. His wife Mary Paley Marshall also joined the staff as a lecturer in Political Economy, the first woman lecturer at the College, and one of the first anywhere in Britain.

The College was set up be a collection of local worthies, in association with Oxford University, after a collection for funds. Money was always short in the early stages and the College opened in two houses on Park Street, though within a short time work started on a new building behind the city Art Gallery and the city Museum (the present Geography department). The courses on offer were, for the most part, below degree level and often held in the evenings to attract professionals and businessmen. Marshall was in poor health, and found the continual begging for funds demeaning. The College was still very small, and the principal was burdened with routine administration. Marshall later wrote that his ‘duties as advertiser in chief were especially onerous’. At one point he even had to help students find accommodation.

He resigned the Principalship in 1881, when his health broke down, but remained Professor of Political Economy and returned to Bristol after convalescing in Italy. Crucial parts of his masterpiece, the Principles of Economics, were drafted during this time. He finally resigned his chair to go to Oxford (which had removed the bar on married fellows) in 1883, before returning to Cambridge. He dominated Economics in Britain for many years, and his Principles was the leading work in the subject for almost half a century.

In the 1950s, Professor David Solomons was appointed as the first Professor of Accountancy in the University of Bristol as part of the new accounting group, making him only the third full-time Accounting Professor in the UK. During his time at Bristol, Solomons was chairman of the Association of University Teachers of Accounting, the forerunner of the British Accounting Association, and went on to become president of the American Accounting Association.

During the 1960s, the Department of Economics was one of the pioneers in the application of mathematics into economics, and was one of the first universities to require an A-level in mathematics for entry. This concentration on mathematics within economics still survives to this day, with economics courses involving a high content of econometrics and mathematical modelling.

Alfred Marshall, first professor of political economy and first principal of University College Bristol. Photo courtesy of the University of Bristol Library, Special Collections.
David Solomons, inaugural professor of accounting at the University of Bristol.
Photo courtesy of the University of Bristol Library, Special Collections.
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