The Essay on the Nature of Trade in General was written in the early 1730s by Richard Cantillon, a speculator and banker who had made a vast fortune during the Mississippi and South Sea Bubbles of 1719-20. The work remained unpublished for about two decades, but when it appeared posthumously in Paris in 1755 the book was immediately recognised as a brilliant genre-defining contribution to the then emerging intellectual discipline of political economy.
A degree of mystery has always surrounded the publication of the Essay. Cantillon died under mysterious circumstances in 1734, but the work survived in various manuscript forms. This edition offers an innovative mode of presentation, displaying for the very first time all print and manuscript versions of the Essay in parallel. This allows the reader to appreciate different formulations of Cantillon’s seminal contributions to a range of topics, including his circular flow analysis, monetary theory, theories of value and distribution, the role of the entrepreneur, spatial economics and international trade.
Richly annotated and accompanied by a detailed study of the historical background of Cantillon’s writings, this new scholarly edition offers many new insights into this early masterpiece of economic theory.
"This variorum edition of the Essai, together with the scholarly material contained in the introductory chapters and the comments, represents a breathtaking amount of meticulous scholarship. It is a huge achievement and opens up avenues for future work…" Renee Prendergast, The UK History of Economic Thought Society
"In conclusion, this new edition is a precious, indispensable tool for informed readers. It marks an important phase in research on Cantillon, and there can be no doubt that it will help renew that research." Christine Théré, Cairn-int.info
"Above all, Cantillon’s Essay is systematic and integrated…The financial turbulence of the past decade underlines the continued relevance of Cantillon’s seminal analysis, so we are very fortunate indeed to have this extremely helpful and clearly authoritative edition to hand." John Berdell, DePaul University, Journal of the History of Economic Thought
"The contribution that Richard van den Berg makes with his edition is considerable, for our attention is forced to the structure of one particular text and its place within a European, rather than national, context." Keith Tribe, The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 24:5, 1107-1109
Preface 1 Introduction 2 Historical backgrounds to the texts 2.1 The French versions 2.1.1 The print editions 2.1.2 The French manuscript versions 2.1.3 Variations between the French versions 2.2 The English versions 2.2.1 The Fragments in Postlethwayt’s Universal Dictionary 2.2.2 Philip Cantillon’s Analysis 3 The Higgs translation 4 The uses of this edition Presentation of the texts