Chapter

Historical Theory 

Andrew Stewart Skinner

in A System of Social Science

Second edition

Published in print March 1996 | ISBN: 9780198233343
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191678974 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198233343.003.0005
Historical Theory 

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Adam Smith's interest in social history found a number of precedents and parallels on the Continent. It is interesting to note that, as Quaestor for the University Library, Smith made purchases including the works of Giannonne, Daniel, and Brosse, and that he owned copies of works by Fénelon, Fontenelle, Rollin, Raynal, Mably, Duclos, and Chastellux, to name a few. Such writers are associated with something of a revolution in historical writing. Smith's own work on the history of civil society is particularly noteworthy, and is among the first subjects that he appears to have addressed. Even if we exclude the Edinburgh Lectures, it is now well known, from the account supplied by John Millar, that the third part of Smith's lecture course delivered from the Moral Philosophy chair had been concerned with ‘that branch of morality which relates to justice’. Smith managed to isolate four distinct modes of subsistence to which there corresponded four types of social structure: the stages of hunting, pasturage, farming, and commerce.

Keywords: Adam Smith; social history; historical writing; civil society; morality; justice; hunting; pasturage; farming; commerce

Chapter.  14686 words. 

Subjects: Economic History

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