Table of Contents

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.

Chapter 9: David Hume (1711–1776)

Daniel Diatkine

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


Life Hume was born on 26 April 1711 in Edinburgh. At the age of 12, he entered the University of Edinburgh, where his family encouraged him to pursue legal studies. However, he was only interested in philosophy (including scientific studies). He later stayed in Bristol for several months as a merchant, and then left for France for three years. It was during his stay at La Flèche, in Anjou, between 1733 and 1735 that he wrote his major work, A Treatise of Human Nature. Published in 1739 and 1740, this book was given a very disappointing reception. That is why he later decided to publish two versions, deemed more accessible: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751). Upon his return to Scotland in 1740 – where he met Adam Smith, to whom he remained very close throughout his life – he published his first Essays in Edinburgh in 1741, spanning a very broad field, ranging from “Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion” to “Of Civil Liberty”. Other essays on widely diverse subjects were to be added over the years. These essays were very successful. However, accused of atheism, Hume failed to obtain a chair at the University of Edinburgh (in 1745) or Glasgow (in 1751). The position of librarian to the Edinburgh Faculty of Advocates enabled him to write The History of England, published between 1754 and 1762. After the end of the Seven Years’ War, Hume became the personal secretary to...

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