Book Description and Chapter Outline

Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Although many of Edmund Burke’s speeches and writings contain prominent economic dimensions, his economic thought seldom receives the attention it warrants. Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy stands as the most comprehensive study to date of this fascinating subject. In addition to providing rigorous textual analysis, Collins unearths previously unpublished manuscripts and employs empirical data to paint a rich historical and theoretical context for Burke’s economic beliefs. Collins integrates Burke’s reflections on trade, taxation, and revenue within his understanding of the limits of reason and his broader conception of empire. Such reflections demonstrate the ways that commerce, if properly managed, could be an instrument for both public prosperity and imperial prestige. More importantly, Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy raises timely ethical questions about capitalism and its limits. In Burke’s judgment, civilizations cannot endure on transactional exchange alone, and markets require ethical preconditions. There is a grace to life that cannot be bought.


Table of Contents


Part I. Biography:
1. Biography and Burke’s Authority as a Political Economist
Part II. Market Economies:
2. Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, Supply and Demand, and Middlemen
3. Agricultural Policy, Labor, and Wealth Redistribution
4. Markets, Rationalism, and the Hayek Connection

Part III. The British Constitution and Economical Reform:
5. The British Constitution: Burke’s Program of Economical Reform and the Role of the State

Part IV. Foreign Trade:
6. Account of the European Settlements in America, the British West Indies, and the Free Port Act of 1766
7. Observations on a Late State of the Nation and the Political Economy of Anglo-American Imperial relations
8. Anglo-Irish commercial Relations, Two Letters on the Trade of Ireland, and the Politics of Free Trade

Part V. India:
9. Britain’s East India Company, Indian markets, and Monopoly:
10. Speech on Fox’s India Bill, Six Mercantile Principles, and the Danger of Political Commerce

Part VI. The French Revolution:
11. Reflections on the Revolution in France: Property, the Monied Interest, and the Assignats
12. The Real Rights of Men, Manners, and the Limits of Transactional Exchange