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It is David Ricardo, (1772-1823) rather than Malthus who has long been regarded as the more outstanding of the classical economists after Adam Smith. His father was a Jewish immigrant to England who became a prosperous merchant and broker. Ricardo entered his father's business, but after marrying a Quakeress and embracing her faith was forced onto his own resources. By the time he reached his early forties he had gained a large fortune as a stock broker which enabled him to retire to a large rural estate. Here he played the role of landlord and engaged in serious study. In 1819 he bought a seat in Parliament, representing an Irish rotten borough which he seems never even to have visited. This gave him an opportunity to participate at a high level in discussing the great economic and political issues then before the country. As a member of Parliament he favored parliamentary reform, widening the suffrage, and free trade. The first of these measures might well have lost him his seat and the third would have adversely affected the income from his estate. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XIV: The Industrial Revolution, Classical Economics, and Economic Liberalism. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.