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In 1776, several years after his good friend James Watt had obtained the first patent covering the steam engine and several years before the process for making wrought iron was devised, Adam Smith (1723-1790), a retired professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This book was immediately popular. It went through five editions in English and was translated into four foreign languages during its author's lifetime, and has stimulated and provoked Western economic thought and debate down to our own time. It won for Smith a secure place as the chief founder of the body of thought which we call classical economics. [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.