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Anderson's Origins of Commerce


Author: Adam Anderson

Publisher: London

Year Printed: 1801

Condition: Fine

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Height: 11 inches

Width: 9 inches


Three nice clean volumes by one of the first real historians of Commerce. Three volumes of a four volume set

Bound in half leather with marbled boards and gilt lettering
There is a Couthart of Coulthart and Collyn bookplate to the front pastedown of each volume.
Adam Anderson (1692–1765), was a historian of commerce.
In 1764, the year before Anderson's sudden death, there appeared the great work which has won him his reputation as a writer on commerce: An historical and chronological deduction of the origin of commerce from the earliest accounts to the present time, containing an history of the great commercial interests of the British Empire. Drawn from a wide spectrum of sources, and arranged in chronological sequence from earliest times, his study pulls together a remarkable range of commercial and statistical information. Customs papers, pamphlets on trade and population, price series for grain, abstracts of parliamentary debates and legislation are all alike quarried for Anderson's contribution to what he termed the new science of Political Arithmetic. The study, dedicated to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, is no mere accumulation of data. Anderson allowed himself room for comment and opinion. As an expatriate Scot, he was a strong supporter of the parliamentary union of 1707 between Scotland and England: ‘Great benefits accruing to both nations by this Union do now appear more and more conspicuous’ (Anderson, 1.244). He was an enthusiastic advocate of the British empire in North America, regretting the failure to push colonisation south and west of the Mississippi. His estimate of the worth of the American colonies to Britain was over-optimistic by some margin yet indicative of his commitment to the imperial relationship. Demand from America, he thought, was such that ‘near a million of our people are employed at home (and many thousands of mariners)’ (ibid., xv). But Anderson was not a slavish follower to current mercantilist orthodoxy in, for example, anticipating Adam Smith in condemning industrial monopolies. He also advocated a uniform system of weights, measures, and coinage for all the nations of Christendom. Other writers drew on his work, notably David MacPherson in his Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries and Navigation (1805). MacPherson disliked Anderson's style as containing too many obsolete phrases which ‘he appears to have used more than any of his contemporaries who have come within my observation’ (MacPherson, 1.v) and was dismissive of the reliability of the earlier chapters. Nevertheless he did feel certain enough of the later material from 1492 to 1762 (when Anderson's study concludes) to reproduce all of it with but very minor changes. Anderson, therefore, has some considerable claim to be recognised as one of the first serious historians of commerce. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)