Sir Josiah Child, 1st Baronet (1630 – June 22, 1699), English merchant, economist and governor of the East India Company, was born in London, the second son of Richard Child, a London merchant of old family.
After serving his apprenticeship in the business, to which he succeeded, he started on his own account at Portsmouth, as victualler to the navy under the Commonwealth, when about twenty-five. He amassed a comfortable fortune, and became a considerable stock-holder in the East India Company, his interest in India being promoted by his namesake in Surat, John Child.
He was returned to Parliament in 1659 for Petersfield; and in later years sat for Dartmouth (1673-1678) and for Ludlow (1685-1687). He was made Baronet, of Wanstead in the County of Essex, in 1678. His advocacy, both by speech and by pen, under the pseudonym Philopatris, of the East India Company's claims to political power, as well as to the right of restricting competition with its trade, brought him to the notice of the shareholders, and he became a director in 1677, and, subsequently, deputy-governor and governor.
In this latter capacity he was for a considerable time virtually the sole ruler of the company , and directed its policy as if it were his own private business. He and John Child have been credited with the change from unarmed to armed traffic; but the actual renunciation of the Roe doctrine of unarmed traffic by the company was resolved upon in January 1686, under Governor Sir Joseph Ash, when Child was temporarily out of office.
Child made several important contributions to the literature of economics; especially Brief Observations concerning Trade and the Interest of Money (1668), and A New Discourse of Trade (1668 and 1690). He was a moderate in those days of the mercantile system, and has sometimes been regarded as a sort of pioneer in the development of the free-trade doctrines of the 18th century. Though Child considered himself a proponent of the competitive market, he simultaneously argued for a government-controlled interest rate and restricted trade among the colonies which would benefit England. He made various proposals for improving British trade by following Dutch example, and advocated a low rate of interest as the causa causans of all the other causes of the riches of the Dutch people. This low rate of interest he thought should be created and maintained by public authority.
Child, whilst adhering to the doctrine of the balance of trade, observed that a people cannot always sell to foreigners without ever buying from them, and denied that the export of the precious metals was necessarily detrimental. He had the mercantilist partiality for a numerous population, and became prominent with a new scheme for the relief and employment of the poor; it is noteworthy also that he advocated the reservation by the mother country of the sole right of trade with her colonies. Sir Josiah Child's eldest son, Richard, was created Viscount Castlemain in 1718 and Earl Tylney in 1731.
See also Macaulay, History of England, vol. iv.; R Grant, Sketch of the History of the East India Company (1813); D Macpherson, Annals of Commerce (1805); B Willson, Ledger and Sword (1903).
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