Ian Simpson Ross

in The Life of Adam Smith

Published in print October 1995 | ISBN: 9780198288213
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596827 | DOI:

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Smith's experience at Balliol College was disappointing, since the dons he encountered were not interested in teaching, and their easy enjoyment of sinecures as Fellows did not encourage that competition for students, and therefore revenue, prevalent among the Glasgow professors, which kept them abreast of their subjects and in touch with the advances of Enlightenment thought, especially the New Philosophy of Locke and the New Science of Newton. Smith read widely on his own, in politics and modern languages, but with no one to supervise him, he seems to have overdone study and suffered a kind of nervous breakdown. He may have started reading Hume at this time, and been punished for doing so; certainly the religious orthodoxy of Balliol and the Jacobitism there, perhaps inflamed by the ’45 Rising’, must have repelled him, and he is reported to have left Oxford in 1746 ‘in disgust.’

Keywords: breakdown; competition; Hume; language; politics

Chapter.  10599 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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