The Coming of Age of Political Economy, 1815-1825

By Gary F. Langer | Go to book overview

2 What Political Economy Meant

Caroline: I have been thinking a great deal of political economy since yesterday, my dear Mrs. B., but I feat not to much purpose: at least I am no farther advanced than to the discovery of a great confusion of ideas which prevails in my mind on the subject. This science seems to comprehend everything, and yet I own, that I am still at a loss to understand what it is. Cannot you give me a short explanation of it, that I may have some clear ideas to begin with?

Mrs. B.: I once heard a lady ask a philosopher to tell her in a few words what is meant by political economy. Madam, he replied, you understand perfectly what is meant by household economy, you need only extend your idea of the economy of a family to the whole of a people--of a nation, and you will have some comprehension of the nature of political economy.

Caroline: Considering that he was limited to a few words, do you not think that he acquitted himself extremely well? But as I have a little more patience than this lady, I hope you will indulge me with a more detailed explanation of this universal science.

Mrs. B.: Political economy treats of the formation, the distribution, and the consumption of wealth; it teaches us the causes which promote or prevent its increase, and their influences on the happiness or misery of society.

Jane Marcet, Conversations on Political Economy (1824) 1

For about a century after Adam Smith's death in 1790, when people spoke of political economy in Britain they usually meant one of three things. They used

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The Coming of Age of Political Economy, 1815-1825
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Economics and Economic History Series Editor. Robert Sobel ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Tables and Figures xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Introduction 9
  • Note 10
  • Part I - The Meaning of Political Economy 11
  • 2 - What Political Economy Meant 13
  • 3 - The Celebrated Masters of Political Economy 27
  • 4 - Allies of Political Economy 51
  • 5 - Opposition to Political Economy 83
  • Part II - Political Economy and Societ 99
  • 6 - Money and Distress 101
  • 7 - Free Trade 129
  • Epilogue 191
  • Notes 193
  • Appendix A Syllabus of George Pryme's Lectures on Political Economy 195
  • Title Page 196
  • Preface 197
  • Preface 198
  • A SYLLABUS &c. &c. Introductory Lecture 200
  • Bibliography 209
  • Index 219
  • About the Author 224
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