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History of Political Economy 32.1 (2000) 166

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Book Review

On The Wealth of Nations:
Contemporary Responses to Adam Smith

On Moral Sentiments:
Contemporary Responses to Adam Smith

On The Wealth of Nations: Contemporary Responses to Adam Smith. Edited and with an introduction by Ian S. Ross. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1998. xxxviii; 248 pp. $24.95.

On Moral Sentiments: Contemporary Responses to Adam Smith. Edited and with an introduction by John Reeder. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1997. xxiv; 239 pp. $24.95.

These two volumes are part of the Key Issues series, which provides contemporary reactions to important books and debates in a number of fields in social theory. Each volume contains an introduction by a distinguished scholar that discusses the historical background and provides overviews of the selections therein.

The volume on The Wealth of Nations is edited and introduced by Ian S. Ross, author of The Life of Adam Smith (1995). The following materials are included: letters by five members of Smith's Scottish Enlightenment group--David Hume, Hugh Blair, William Robertson, Adam Ferguson, and John Millar; a published letter from Thomas Pownall; a review of the book by William Enfield; four criticisms that range in date from 1774 to 1817; a number of selections related to the entry of The Wealth of Nations into British politics, ranging in date from 1776 (in the case of Smith's own comments on taxes on malt and inhabited houses) to 1800; and selections on the early reception of The Wealth of Nations in Germany, France, Italy, and the United States (by Alexander Hamilton). Some of the selections are in the language of the respective countries.

For scholars interested in The Wealth of Nations and the intellectual environment into which the book entered, these selections will make worthwhile reading. Equally informative, even to the most seasoned Smithian scholars, is the introduction by Ross. This volume has to be regarded as one of the major recent contributions, along with Ross's Life of Adam Smith, to the literature on Smith.

The volume on The Theory of Moral Sentiments is edited and introduced by John Reeder. The first group of selections contains initial responses to the book. Included are letters from David Hume and a reply from Smith, letters from Edmund Burke and William Robertson, a letter from Smith to Gilbert Elliot, an excerpt from the diary of George Ridpath, Hume's abstract of Moral Sentiments, and a review of the book by Edmund Burke. The second group consists of selections by Smith's contemporaries, among them Lord Kames, Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson, George Horne, and Dugald Stewart. Critical assessments that range in date from 1820 to 1881 comprise the final group of selections.

Scholars interested in Smith's moral philosophy will find this a worthwhile volume, although the later critical selections can hardly be called "contemporary" responses. Even so, they attest to the continued interest in the book. The introduction is quite helpful in explaining the selections and adds some insights into the reactions (positive and negative) of various intellectuals to the book.

Charles G. Leathers
University of Alabama



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