Conversations on Political Economy; in which the Elements of that Science are Familiarly Explained.

MARCET Jane. (1816.)

£1500.00  [First Edition]

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First edition. 8vo. xii, 464 [2, publisher's advertisements] pp., lacking the half title. Modern half calf with marbled paper covered boards. London: printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.

Jane Marcet's popular introductory work on classic political economy, "which not only introduced the reader to the basic principles of the science, but through a dialogue between 'Mrs. B.' and 'Caroline' implied a readership of educated young women. The dialogue, organised as twenty one 'conversations', steers Caroline from initial antipathy to the 'jargon of unintelligible terms' and 'perpetual reference to the works of Adam Smith' (p. 6) towards acceptance of, if not enthusiasm for, the new science. From her initial conception that 'the rate of wages should be proportioned by law to that of provisions; so that the poor might not be sufferers by a rise in the price of bread' (p. 8) Caroline is brought to confess in the closing conversation:

'All that you have said reconciles me, in a great measure, to the inequality of the distribution of wealth; for it proves that, however great a man's possessions may be, it is decidedly advantageous to the country that he should still endeavour to augment them. Formerly I imagined that whatever addition was made to the wealth of the rich was so much subtracted from the pittance of the poor, but now I see that it is, on the contrary, an addition to the general stock of wealth of the country, by which the poor benefit equally with the rich.' (p. 443)" (quoted in Tribe, p. 47f).

At a time when the discipline was generally deemed to be the preserve of men, the accessibility Marcet’s narrative strategy proved highly popular with contemporary readers, undergoing a rapid succession of new editions – in 1817, 1819, 1821, 1824, 1827 and finally in 1833 – and helping to popularise the study of economics. Macaulay wrote that "every girl who has read Mrs. Marcet’s little dialogues on political economy could teach Montagu or Walpole many lessons in finance."

Se: Tribe, Economic manuals and textbooks in Great Britain and the British Empire 1797–1938.

Stock Code: 239313

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