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Carl Wennerlind and Margaret Schabas, Eds.: David Hume's Political Economy (Book Review)

History of Economics Review, 2008, Summer, 48

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Carl Wennerlind and Margaret Schabas, eds. David Hume's Political Economy. London: Routledge. 2008. Pp. xiii + 378. ISBN 13: 978-0-415-32001-6 (hb). 70 [pounds sterling]. David Hume's political economy, the subject to which the essays contained in this volume are devoted, is not only very meritorious in itself, it was highly regarded in eighteenth-century intellectual circles in the English, the French and even the Italian-speaking world. This international appreciation of Hume's economic writings is likewise reflected in the authorship gathered together to produce this book, which has drawn contributions from persons working in the United States, in Canada, in the British Isles and in France. They produced the papers for a conference originally held at Barnard College in May 2003, and revised them for publication almost five years later, so that the book has had a fairly lengthy gestation period. These papers take a broad approach to Hume's economic opinions, often combining perspectives on his political economy with aspects of his philosophy and his splendid History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688, the last a work which went through many editions, the later ones containing the 'short account of his life' written by Hume himself. That life humbly reminds its reader that Hume's first book, the 1737 Treatise of Human Nature, 'fell dead-born from the press', a fate shared initially by its rewrite as an Enquiry concerning Human Understanding but not by his first volume of essays published in 1742. These, and their successors, were very 'favourably' received, according to their author when acting as autobiographer. More literary work followed, particularly in the 1750s: his Political Discourses in 1752 as a further volume of essays; the first two volumes of the History in 1754 and 1756 (covering the Stuart period until the 1688 Revolution); the third and fourth (dealing with the Tudors) in 1759; and the final two volumes covering pre-Tudor history in 1761. The history was written while Hume was employed as Librarian in the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh. In 1763 Hume spent some years in Paris to assist the English ambassador, Lord Hertford, which provided a 'real satisfaction in living' from 'the great number of sensible, knowing and polite company with which that city abounds above all places in the universe'. After further employment with Lord Hertford in Ireland, Hume in 1769 retired to Edinburgh, with a 'revenue of 1000 [pounds sterling]. a year', a retirement interrupted in 1775 by the illness which killed him the subsequent year (1776), the year he wrote this autobiographical note.

Carl Wennerlind and Margaret Schabas, Eds.: David Hume's Political Economy (Book Review)
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  • Category: Economics
  • Published: 22 June 2008
  • Publisher: History of Economic Thought Society of Australia
  • Print Length: 9 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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