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More like apes than angels: natural history and the political economy of David Hume and Adam Smith

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Though historians have argued that the Scottish Enlightenment’s unifying trope was that of natural history, the ties of natural history to the political economy of David Hume and Adam Smith have remained under explored. Margaret Schabas (University of British Columbia, currently at the London School of Economics) argues against this oversight. Based on, inter alia, Hume’s use of analogies between economic phenomena and plants and animals, and Smith’s similar interest in the work of Linnaeus and other aspects of natural history, Schabas presents the intriguing argument that there were strong links between natural history and political economy well before Darwin discovered Malthus.

This talk is part of the Natural History Cabinet, Cambridge University Department of History and Philosophy of Science series.

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