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Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 456
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Historians have traditionally turned to free trade and laissez faire to explain the development of political economy during the Enlightenment. Reinert argues that economic emulation was the prism through which philosophers, ministers, reformers, and merchants thought about imperialism, economics, industry, and reform in the early modern period.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06323-5
    Subjects: Economics, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xi)
  4. Map: the Americas and the Caribbean, c. 1788
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Map: Europe, c. 1788, with dates of publication for Cary’s Essay on the State of England
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon famously asserted that “knowledge is power,” but some forms of knowledge are more conducive to power than others. Among them is the study of imperium, of power itself.¹ The dark science of achieving greatness and dominion over others has taken many names and forms: it constituted the backbone of Plato’s Republic, where the doctrine of the “noble lie” taught elites to deceive and control the masses; it was codified in later epochs as Tacitus’s arcana imperii, the “state secrets” of Roman rule; it thrilled and frightened readers in the form of Niccolò Machiavelli’s...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Emulation and Translation
    (pp. 13-72)

    As the dust began to settle in the wake of the global Seven Years’ War of 1756–63, the cosmopolitan libertines Giacomo Casanova and Ange Goudar penned the legendary Chinese Spy, a widely translated best seller constructed around a series of fictitious dispatches by exotic observers in the spirit of Montesquieu’s Persian Letters.¹ The six-volume work chiefly recounted the experiences and misadventures of the mandarin envoy Champi-pi, “commissioned to examine into the present state of Europe.” The spy deftly engaged with every major power and controversy of his age, but his insights into political economy were particularly poignant. On the deck...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Cary’s Essay on the State of England
    (pp. 73-128)

    England, people said at the turn of the seventeenth century, was the new Venice, the millennial commercial empire translated, across the crucible of emulation, from the Canal Grande to the Thames. Today, we cherish James Harrington’s Anglo-Venetian political paradigm, the spread of Italian institutional innovations like insurance and double-entry bookkeeping, and Canaletto’s vistas of London in galleries around the world. Less known, but more striking, is William Marlow’s extraordinary Capriccio, which literally placed St. Paul’s on a Venetian canal. For the viewer, the bustling canal—and what it represented in terms of industry, commerce, and dominion over the seas—becomes...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Butel-Dumont’s Essai sur l’État du Commerce d’Angleterre
    (pp. 129-185)

    Voltaire observed that crossing the English Channel was like crossing into another world, where “Philosophy, like every Thing else,” was “very much chang’d.”¹ Safely poised off mainland Europe, the archipelagic kingdom of Great Britain harbored an oceanic way of life that contemporaries were certain engendered the scientific and commercial acumen fueling its imperial ambitions.² France, on the other hand, was the largest territorial power west of Russia, yet an “empire rather of taste and arts” according to the Marquis d’Argenson.³ Whereas England was the unmistakable nouveau riche of Europe, France had been dictating the fate of the continent for centuries....

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Genovesi’s Storia del commercio della Gran Brettagna
    (pp. 186-232)

    The heuristic value of François Melon’s model had not been exhausted with the simple identification of industrial England as the “island of wool” and agricultural France as an “island of grain” in his idealized representation of the world economy. The Italian peninsula had once been both, and found its analytical equivalent in Melon’s description of a once powerful island that with time had lost the good graces of Lady Commerce. It was a motley constellation of independent republics, principalities, and subject states, a political microcosm of Europe, that twice had been the dominant force in Western civilization—during Roman times...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Wichmann’s Ökonomisch-politischer Commentarius
    (pp. 233-270)

    England’s American colonies had won independence, France was on the brink of d’Argenson’s “total revolution,” and Kant had defined “Enlightenment” along the Horatian lines of “dare to know!” when Cary’s Essay underwent its final translation, into German, in 1788.¹ By this time, it had become a classic in Calvino’s sense. On the one hand it depicted the nature of British economic hegemony and codified the policies pursued to achieve it; on the other it conveyed the history of how different European contexts had engaged it.² It was an unlikely founding document of political economy, but a founding document all the...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 271-288)

    The extraordinary international influence of Cary’s Essay forces us to rethink the history of political economy, not only in terms of what it originally taught and the policies it helped enact, but also of how it circulated and the extent to which it permeated European culture. Exchange rates in the second half of the eighteenth century were in perpetual flux, and it would be impossible to present accurate price comparisons for the different editions of Cary’s Essay at the times and places for which data are available. Allowing for the counterfactual conceit of assuming that relevant price information from booksellers...

  13. Abbreviations
    (pp. 291-292)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 293-350)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 351-416)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 417-420)
  17. Index
    (pp. 421-439)