Eighteenth Century Economics: Turgot, Beccaria and Smith and Their Contemporaries

By Peter Groenewegen | Go to book overview

Prelude

The essays on eighteenth-century economics collected in this volume represent four decades of my research on this subject. These began with my postgraduate studies in the 1960s and have continued as part of my activities as a university teacher at the University of Sydney specialising in the history of economics. In 1961 and 1962, I wrote a Master of Economics thesis at the University of Sydney on the Economics of A.R.J. Turgot; in 1963-5 I completed a Ph.D. thesis at the London School of Economics on the history of the theory of value, production and distribution from 1650 to 1776. Many of the articles reprinted in this volume - particularly Chapters 4, 7, 8, 16, 17, 18 and 20 - derive from this graduate research although, not surprisingly, in each case they embody a great deal of additional work and reflect the impact of advice from eminent scholars in the history of economics.

In 1976, I spent a period of study leave from Sydney at the University of Florence in Piero Barucci’s history of economics department. There I worked on eighteenth-century Italian economics, particularly that of Beccaria, Verri, Genovesi and Galiani, as reprinted in the Custodi edition of Italian economic classics. Some fruits of this research are visible in Chapters 1 and 15. In 1982, I began a series of reprints of classics in economics, largely, but not totally, drawn from the eighteenth century. Chapters 13 and 14 present extracts from introductions to two of these reprints, while Chapter 10 recounts some of my early experiences in this venture. When in 1989 I formed a Centre for the Study of the History of Economic Thought at the University of Sydney, with the encouragement and support from its then Vice Chancellor, the late Professor J. M. Ward, the reprints were published under its auspices. The series was completed in 2000 with a reprint of a work by Boisguilbert, his 1704 A Treatise on the Nature of Wealth, Money and Taxation. The Centre also organised a number of one-day (or longer) workshops and conferences, of which Chapter 11 marks an early instance. The proceedings of many of the later meetings tended to be published in book form, including a study on women and economics (1994), economics and ethics (1996) and one on physicians and political economy (2001). The most recent in fact also covers much early economics by investigating the links between medicine and economics by way

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