themselves unable to meet their wage and rent obligations. Its effect upon the ruling classes was to give urgency to questions of economic management and to draw attention to the oracles of political economy.
I have divided the chapters that follow into two parts. The first part is entitled "The Meaning of Political Economy," not because it is a search after strict definition but because, taken as a whole, it is meant to show the connection of political economy to various aspects of the social and intellectual life of the period. The meaning of any set of ideas cannot, I believe, be properly understood except in connection with the lives of the people who held them, and the reality to which they referred and of which they were a part.
"What Political Economy Meant" is the opening chapter of Part I. It aims at describing the origins and character of the scientific tradition in which the political economists of the period 1815-1825 saw themselves participating. The next two chapters examine the careers of those people who were most active and influential in bringing political economy to public attention. "The Celebrated Masters of Political Economy" focuses upon the men most accomplished and best known as economists. Most attention is placed upon the career of David Ricardo, for it was his that attracted the greatest attention of contemporaries. "Allies of Political Economy" treats the careers of those who were not economists themselves but who were nevertheless responsible for propagating its authority and bringing it to bear on political causes. "Opposition to Political Economy" describes the nature of the opposition that the economists and their doctrines provoked. That they did provoke such hostile criticism is testimony to the celebrity and influence that they acquired during these years. The chapter also shows how they and their doctrines struck those who shared neither their ideological preconceptions nor their visions of the future.
Part II is entitled "Political Economy and Society." It endeavors to describe in some detail the manner in which political economy was brought to bear on three distinct spheres of social life. These are, in fact, the spheres of social life in relation to which political economy caught on. To see how it was brought to bear on these issues is to go very far in the direction of explaining why it caught on in the way it did. "Money and Distress" treats the connection of political economy to the reform of the monetary system and to the depression of 1819- 1821, which was viewed by many contemporaries as having had its origins in the return to the gold standard begun in 1819 and championed by the Ricardians. "Free Trade" examines the relationship of the science to the free trade movement. "Free Labor" looks at the relation of the activities of the political economists and their allies to the situation of the propertyless laborer.