Bastable, Charles Francis (1855–1945), economist and academic, was born in Charleville, Co. Cork, the only son of the Rev. Robert Bastable, rector of Knock Temple and Kilbolane, and his wife Louisa, daughter of a Dr Little of Sligo. Educated at Fermoy College and TCD, he graduated BA (1878) with a senior moderatorship in history and political science. He later graduated MA (1882) and LL.D. (1890).
Following his BA he initially studied for a career in the law and entered the King's Inns, Dublin (1879), and the Middle Temple, London with a view to being called to the bar. Living in London for a time, in 1881 he won a two-year studentship from the Middle Temple to study jurisprudence and Roman law. Although he was called to the Irish bar in 1882, in the same year he was the successful candidate in the competitive examinations for the Whately chair in political economy at TCD. This appointment allowed him to turn his back on the legal profession in favour of pursuing his true interests of international trade and public finance. Also in 1882, he was elected a member of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland (SSISI) and throughout the next ten years until 1893 read many papers before the Society on the economic issues of the day. He served as hon. secretary of the SSISI 1886–95 and was vice-president 1896–1915.
The year following his election to the SSISI saw his appointment as professor of jurisprudence and political economy at QCG, a post that he retained to 1903. In 1887 the examinations for determining holders of the Whately chair were abolished; Bastable was elected to the chair for an additional term, and subsequently held it until 1932. His second term in the Whately chair saw the release of his The theory of international trade (1897). Quickly becoming the standard textbook on the subject, it also earned Bastable a reputation as a pioneer in the field. In 1890 he became a founding member of the Royal Economic Society; over the next twenty-seven years he contributed numerous articles, predominantly on public finance, to Economic Journal, the periodical of the society. Building on his reputation, he wrote Commerce of nations (1891) and Public finance (1892), the latter becoming the classic work on public finance for the next forty years. In 1894 he was president of section F (economics and statistics) of the British Association.
Despite his burgeoning reputation within economic circles, the meagre stipend provided from his professorships forced Bastable to take additional lecturing positions, most of which were in law. In 1902 he became professor of jurisprudence and international law at TCD, and in 1905 was George Rae lecturer at the University College of North Wales. He was later appointed regius professor of laws (1908–32) at TCD and was Warburton lecturer at the University of Manchester 1909–10. A fellow (1921) of the British Academy, he was a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th, 10th, and 11th editions) on finance and money, as well as to Robert Palgrave's Dictionary of political economy. In 1912 he was appointed to a committee to investigate the question of agricultural credit in Ireland. The most influential member of the fiscal inquiry committee (1923), he also served on an informal committee on token coinage (1923), and a statistics committee (1924). He retired from college and public life in 1932.
Serving on the board of TCD as representative of those professors who were not fellows, he refused a fellowship in 1918 because he was displeased by the manner in which it was offered. An obituary written by G. A. Duncan (1902–2006), Bastable's one-time assistant and his successor as professor of political economy, described him as ‘a citizen of that Platonic republic of men of intelligence, sense and goodwill to whom the artificial “national” distinctions of our modern world are not only irrelevant but mischievous’. He died 3 January 1945 at his home, 52 Brighton Road, Rathgar, and bequeathed his library to TCD. A photo by the Chancellor studio of Dublin is reproduced with Duncan's obituary in Proceedings of the British Academy, and a number of his letters are in TCD library.