Wakefield, Edward Gibbon

Wakefield, Edward Gibbon,

1796–1862, British colonial statesman. He was attached to the British embassies in Turin (1814–16) and Paris (1820–26), but in 1826 was convicted of an attempt to marry an heiress by trickery. While in prison (1827–30) Wakefield prepared material for a book on capital punishment (pub. 1831) and studied colonial affairs. He evolved his important theory of systematic colonization, embodied in such works as A Letter from Sydney (1829) and A View of the Art of Colonization (1849). Concerned by the problems of increasing population, with resultant poverty and crime, he advocated the settlement of the colonies by ordinary citizens rather than by transported convicts. He argued that land should be sold in small lots at a moderate fixed price instead of given away (the funds thus gathered to be used to support further colonization), and some self-government should be allowed. These influential ideas led to the founding (1834) of the South Australian Association and the establishment of the South Australian colony. Wakefield accompanied (1838) Lord DurhamDurham, John George Lambton, 1st earl of
, 1792–1840, British statesman. A stormy liberal career in Parliament (1813–32), which earned him the nickname Radical Jack, culminated in the important role he
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 to Canada as an adviser and influenced Durham's report on Canadian government. In 1839 he founded the New Zealand Land Company, which colonized part of that territory. He went to New Zealand in 1852 and entered into politics there, but suffered a complete breakdown in 1854.


See his collected works, ed. by M. F. Lloyd Prichard (1968); biographies by I. O'Connor (1929) and P. Bloomfield (1961); R. C. Mills, The Colonization of Australia (1915, repr. 1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wakefield, Edward Gibbon


Born Mar. 20, 1796, in London; died May 16, 1862, in Wellington, New Zealand. British economist and political figure.

Wakefield, a prominent representative of English classical political economy, was the author of a commentary on A. Smith’s An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In his A Letter from Sydney (1829) and England and America (1833), Wakefield proposed a plan for systematic colonization, suggesting that the sale price of land in the colonies be raised and that other measures be taken that would encourage the emigration of hired workers from Great Britain. Wakefield also believed that this emigration of workers would lessen the danger of social outbreaks in the mother country. K. Marx considered the plan to be an attempt at “primitive accumulation” in the colonies. Wakefield was one of the authors of the Durham Report (1839) regarding the situation in Canada after the uprising of 1837–38. He made a fortune speculating in land in Australia and New Zealand. Wakefield promoted the annexation of New Zealand, and after settling in the colony in 1852 he played an active part in its political life.


Facts Relating to the Punishment of Death in the Metropolis. London, 1831.
A View of the Art of Colonization. New York, 1969.


Marx, K., and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23; vol. 25, part 2; vol. 26, parts 1–3; vol. 46, parts 1–2; vol. 47. (See Index of Names.)
Erofeev, N. A. “‘Sistematicheskaia kolonizatsiia’: Iz istorii angliiskoi kolonial’noi politiki XIX v.” In Imperializm i bor’ba rabochego klassa. Moscow, 1960.
Bloomfield, P. E. G. Wakefield, Builder of the British Commonwealth. London, 1961.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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WAKEFIELD, Edward Gibbon (1929/1829), A Letter from Sydney and Other Writings, J.M.