Modern Intellectual History 1 (1):3-25 (2004)

The paper is concerned with disputes over sovereignty and global commerce in the 1760s and 1770s. The eighteenth-century revolution in economic science has been identified with agricultural reforms, and with the definition of national economies. The economists of the time, including Turgot, Mirabeau, Dupont de Nemours, Baudeau and Adam Smith, were also intensely interested in the merchant sovereigns of the French, English and Dutch East India companies, and in the new colonial ventures of the post-Seven Years War period. Their writings on global commerce were sometimes extraordinarily detailed (about herrings, for example, or bye-laws) and often untheoretical. Turgot was for a brief period minister of the navy and of the colonies. The older Mirabeau described the as and the cod of the North Atlantic as But the economists’ writings on global connections were the occasion for some of their most profound reflections on the political consequences of laissez-faire, on theories of sovereignty, on the difficulties of transporting information or instructions over very large distances, and on the changing relationships between power, law and commerce. The disputes over long-distance commerce provide an interesting insight, the paper suggests, into ways of thinking which were at the same time scientific and administrative, global and provincial
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DOI 10.1017/s147924430300009x
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