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Translating Empire: Emulation and the Origins of Political Economy

Author

Listed:
  • Reinert, Sophus A.

    (Harvard Business School)

Abstract

Historians have traditionally used the discourses of free trade and laissez-faire to explain the development of political economy during the Enlightenment. But from Sophus Reinert’s perspective, eighteenth-century political economy can be understood only in the context of the often brutal imperial rivalries then unfolding in Europe and its former colonies and the positive consequences of active economic policy. The idea of economic emulation was the prism through which philosophers, ministers, reformers, and even merchants thought about economics, as well as industrial policy and reform, in the early modern period. With the rise of the British Empire, European powers and others sought to selectively emulate the British model. In mapping the general history of economic translations between 1500 and 1849, and particularly tracing the successive translations of the Bristol merchant John Cary’s seminal 1695 Essay on the State of England, Reinert makes a compelling case for the way that England’s aggressively nationalist policies, especially extensive tariffs and other intrusive market interventions, were adopted in France, Italy, Germany, and Scandinavia before providing the blueprint for independence in the New World. Relatively forgotten today, Cary’s work served as the basis for an international move toward using political economy as the prime tool of policymaking and industrial expansion. Reinert’s work challenges previous narratives about the origins of political economy and invites the current generation of economists to reexamine the foundations, and future, of their discipline.

Suggested Citation

  • Reinert, Sophus A., 2011. "Translating Empire: Emulation and the Origins of Political Economy," Economics Books, Harvard University Press, number 9780674061514, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:hup:pbooks:9780674061514
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    Cited by:

    1. Deirdre McCloskey, 2015. "It was ideas and ideologies, not interests or institutions, which changed in Northwestern Europe, 1600–1848," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 57-68, January.
    2. Rainer Kattel & Leonardo Burlamaqui, 2016. "Development Theory: Convercence, Catch-Up Or Leapfrogging And Finance ?," Anais do XLII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 42nd Brazilian Economics Meeting] 073, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    3. Roger Fouquet & Stephen Broadberry, 2015. "Seven Centuries of European Economic Growth and Decline," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 227-244, Fall.
    4. Mulatu, Abay, 2016. "On the concept of 'competitiveness' and its usefulness for policy," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 50-62.
    5. Thomas Leng, 2016. "Interlopers and disorderly brethren at the Stade Mart: commercial regulations and practices amongst the Merchant Adventurers of England in the late Elizabethan period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(3), pages 823-843, August.
    6. Reinert, Erik S., 2012. "Neo-classical economics: A trail of economic destruction since the 1970s," MPRA Paper 47910, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General

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