Georg Friedrich Knapp

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Georg Friedrich Knapp
Born (1842-03-07)March 7, 1842
Gießen, Grand Duchy of Hesse
Died February 20, 1926(1926-02-20) (aged 83)
Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany
Nationality German
Institution University of Strasbourg
Field Monetary economics, statistics
School or tradition
Chartalism, Historical school of economics
Influences Ferdinand Lassalle[1]
Influenced Ladislaus Bortkiewicz (Dr. phil. habil. 1895) (doctoral student), Kurt Singer (doctoral student), John Maynard Keynes

Georg Friedrich Knapp (German: [knap]; 7 March 1842 – 20 February 1926) was a German economist who in 1905 published The State Theory of Money, which founded the chartalist school of monetary theory, which argues that money's value derives from its issuance by an institutional form of government rather than spontaneously through relations of exchange.


Knapp studied in Munich, Berlin. and Göttingen, and in 1867 became director of the Statistical Bureau of Leipzig. In 1869 he was appointed assistant professor of economics and statistics in the University of Leipzig.[2] In 1874 he was appointed a professor of political economy at the University of Strasbourg, where he remained until 1918. He was also rector at Strasbourg in 1891–92 and 1907–08.[3]

In 1886, he founded the periodical Abhandlungen aus dem staatswissenschaftlichen Seminar zu Strassburg.


Knapp was the father of Elly Heuss-Knapp. He raised his two daughters alone, uncommon at the time, after their Georgian-born mother, Knapp's wife, became mentally ill.

The State Theory of Money

Title page of the translated edition of Knapp's The State Theory of Money, 1924

Knapp is mostly remembered for this book which was translated into English by the Royal Economic Society and published for the first time in the United Kingdom in 1924, nineteen years after its first publication in German.

The State Theory of Money sets about to build a theory which could encompass indifferently monetary systems based on precious metals or paper money. Knapp's approach is naturalistic. As a theorist, he does not want to recommend what the monetary ought to be, nor does he explore how money could be put to use in order to attain certain goals. Drawing almost entirely on examples set in 19th century Europe, he derives from them a genetic and then a functional classification. In the process, the book reveals that some of what had been previously thought to be 'specie' money, was simply what he calls 'chartal hylogenic money'. An avowed Chartalist, Knapp does not advocate paper money pure and simple, he points out effectively that the Metallists with their theory cannot effectively explain some observed phenomena which they call 'anomalies'. To the contrary, Knapp thinks his theory is able to explain the manifold monetary systems mentioned in the book. Apart from its theoretical insights, the book is particularly interesting in that it is a very detailed source of information on 19th century European monetary history, focusing on the following countries: England, France, Holland, Austria and Germany. Due to a lack of financial means, the Royal Economic Society voluntary omitted the translation of Chapter IV which contains a historical review of England, France, Germany, Austria, and appendices containing specific case studies. All the same, even in its abridged English version The State Theory of Money depicts precisely the many changes which happened during the course of the 19th century: a general move from bimetallism to monometallism, the appearance and disappearance of paper money systems (in particular the Austrian one of 1866), the almost systematic use of paper money by the State in case of war alongside existing means of payment, the emergence of bank-notes and the use of Giro payments etc.

Major publications

His earlier writings deal chiefly with population and agricultural topics.

  • Ueber die Ermittelung der Sterblichkeit (“On the ascertainment of mortality,” 1868)
  • Die Sterblichkeit der Sachsen (“Mortality in Saxony,” 1869)
  • Theorie des Bevölkerungswechsels (“The theory of population fluctuations,” 1874)
  • Die Bauernbefreiung und der Ursprung der Landarbeiter in den älteren Teilen Preussens (“The liberation of peasants and the origins of the agriculturalist in the older parts of Prussia, ”1887)
  • Die Landarbeiter in Knechtschaft und Freiheit (“The farmer in serfdom and freedom,” 1891)
  • Staatliche Theorie des Geldes (“The State Theory of Money”), München u. Leipzig, Duncker & Humblot, 1905. 3rd edition 1921. English edition of 1924
  • Grundherrschaft und Rittergut (“Land ownership and seignorial lands,” 1897)

See also


  1. Rise of Statistical Thinking, 1820-1900 By Theodore M. Porter p 187
  2. Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). [ "Knapp, George Friedrich" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopedia Americana.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Professorenkatalog der Universität Leipzig". University of Leipzig.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Bonar, James (1922). "Knapp's Theory of Money". The Economic Journal. XXXII (125): 39–47.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ellis, Howard S. (1934). German Monetary Theory, 1905-1933. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Guttman, Franz (1932). "Knapp, Georg Friedrich". Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences. 8. London: Macmillan & Co. pp. 578–79.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hawtrey, R. G. (1925). "The State Theory of Money by Georg Friedrich Knapp". The Economic Journal. XXXV (138): 251–55.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1926). "G. F. Knapp". Economic Journal. XXXVI (143): 512–14.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Trautwein, Hans-Michael (2003). "G. F. Knapp: An Economist with Institutional Complexion". European Economists of the Early 20th Century. 2. Aldershot: Edward Elgar. pp. 167–78.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links