First published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations is one of the great works of economic thought and a touchstone that has influenced generations of economists across the intervening centuries. The 1805 Playfair edition that is presented in this volume represents the first and most important early critical edition. Praised by Francis Ysidro Edgeworth for its 'acute criticism', the Playfair edition was the first to apply economic history to Smith's economic theory — raising issues which are still important in light of the 225 years of revolutions and inflations that have occurred since his death.
The period between the original publication and 1805 saw an enormous development in Britain's wealth, the French Revolution, and rapid American and French inflation. William Playfair wrote insightful supplementary chapters and notes to discuss the aspects of these upheavals which he thought Smith would have wanted to address had he lived to see their effects. The edition reproduces the exact text from the corrected and expanded 1784 third edition, including the index, with Playfair's chapters and notes marked clearly as supplementary additions.