Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 1

Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 1

Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 1

Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings - Vol. 1

Excerpt

I N the spring of 1941, the Council of the Royal Economic Society commissioned me to prepare a comprehensive and critical edition of Jeremy Bentham's economic writings, and the present publication is the fruit of this request. The suggestion came originally from J. M. Keynes, the promoter and protector of so many worthy causes, who was personally interested in all that concerned Bentham and Benthamism, but the need for an up-to-date and reliable edition of this interesting material was much more widely, not to say, generally felt. Already, before the war, Dr. P. N. Rosenstein-Rodan had intended to add a textually sound version of the Manual of Political Economy to Allen and Unwin's Library of Economics: it might have come out long ago had Dr. Rosenstein-Rodan not heard of our more ambitious project and generously decided to abandon his own plans. I should like to express to him my sincere appreciation and gratitude for this kind and understanding action.

Of Jeremy Bentham's economic writings, only a minor part has so far been available in print. By far the greater part was still in manuscript, and the manuscripts themselves were virtually unexamined and unknown. The material is comprised in three collections: the biggest of them is the one in the Library of University College, London. This contains the bulk of the extant manuscripts, but there are two smaller "caches" which should not be overlooked, one in the Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire at Geneva, and the other in the British Museum where the Vansittart papers have been deposited not very long ago. All three collections were freely put at my disposal, and I have used them to the full.

The work itself involved immense difficulties. Bentham's handwriting is so bad that it is quite impossible to make anything of his scripts without first copying them out. I saw myself confronted with the necessity of copying no less than nine big boxes of papers comprising nearly 3,000 pages and a number of words that cannot be far from the seven-figure mark. But that was only the first step. The papers are in no kind of order: in fact, it is hard to imagine how they ever became so utterly disordered. They resemble a pack of cards after it has been thoroughly shuffled. I found part of an interesting pamphlet in box 3 of the University College collection, but I was . . .

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