An Inquiry Into The Principles Of Political Oeconomy

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by Sir James Steuart

Steuart was a supporter of mercantilism, the theory that the prosperity of a nation is dependent upon its supply of capital, and that the global volume of trade is static. Steuart and followers of mercantilism believe that government should assume a protectionist role in the economy, by encouraging exports and discouraging imports, especially through the use of tariffs. [1]
In the Principles, Steuart made notable contributions to economic theory: the historical analysis of the origins of the exchange economy, where he (like Adam Smith) was influenced by David Hume; to the theory of economic development with its emphasis on the importance of interdependent sectors; to the theory of competitive price, and, most notably, to the treatment of money and banking, where he showed his appreciation of banks as a means of mobilizing resources in countries undergoing the process of institutional, as well as economic, change. But it should be recalled that the first two books of the Principles had been completed in Germany by the summer of 1759; that is, prior to the dissemination of the physiocratic macro-economic model of a system using capital, later supplemented by a clear distinction between factors of production and categories of return. But despite detailed changes to the 1767 edition, most of which were incorporated in his collected Works (1805), and now in the 1998 edition, Steuart did not fundamentally change his approach, perhaps because he believed that the model of ‘primitive accumulation’ continued to be relevant to the circumstances which he had encountered in Europe. [2]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Sir James Steuart, (1713-1780)

Title: An Inquiry Into The Principles Of Political Oeconomy: Being An Essay On The Science Of Domestic Policy In Free Nations, In Which Are Particularly Considered Population, Agriculture, Trade, Industry, Money, Coin, Interest, Circulation, Banks, Exchange, Public Credit, And Taxes

Published: London: Printed for A. Millar and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1767.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary tree calf, rebacked, preserving original gilt spines. Purchased from Donald A. Heald Rare Books.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

=External Links

Volume I:Google Books Volume II:Google Books


  1. Blaug Great Economists before Keynes pp.241-242; Einaudi 1527; Goldsmiths' 10276; Kress 6498; Palgrave III, pp.475-476; Schumpeter History of Economic Analysis p.176
  2. Andrew S. Skinner, ‘Steuart , Sir James, of Coltness and Westshield, third baronet (1713–1780)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 11 June 2013