Historical Period: The 18th Century
Adam Smith (1723-1790) is commonly regarded as the first modern economist with the publication in 1776 of The Wealth of Nations. He wrote in a wide range of disciplines: moral philosophy, jurisprudence, rhetoric and literature, and the history of science. He was one of the leading figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith also studied the social forces giving rise to competition, trade, and markets. While professor of logic, and later professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow University, he also had the opportunity to travel to France, where he met François Quesnay and the physiocrats; he had friends in business and the government, and drew broadly on his observations of life as well as careful statistical work summarizing his findings in tabular form. He is viewed as the founder of modern economic thought, and his work inspires economists to this day. The economic phrase for which he is most famous, the “invisible hand” of economic incentives, was only one of his many contributions to the modern-day teaching of economics. [The image comes from “The Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection at Duke University.”]
It is with regret that we announce that, as of February 14, 2014, we are no longer able to host the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith on the OLL website, as Oxford University Press will no longer grant us the electronic rights to do so. This edition of Smith was one of the first new titles we added to the OLL website after it went live to the public in March 2004 and it has been an important part of our collection ever since. Over the coming months we plan to replace as much as we can with other editions of his works.
For additional information about Adam Smith see the following:
- Essays on Adam Smith
- Timeline on the Life and Work of Adam Smith
- in the Library: the classic Life of Adam Smith by John Rae
- at our sister website Econlib: the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics entry on Adam Smith
- in the Goodrich Seminar Room: Adam Smith
- Author: BOLL 7: Adam Smith, “On Free Trade” (1776)
- Author: BOLL 39: Adam Smith, “Of the Character of Virtue” (1759)
- Author: The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, 7 vols.
- Author: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Cannan ed.), in 2 vols.
- Author: Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms (1763)
- Author: Theory of Moral Sentiments and Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1869)
- Author: The Theory of Moral Sentiments and on the Origins of Languages (Stewart ed.)