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Chapter 4 - Political Economy in Revolution

France, Free Commerce, and Wollstonecraft’s History of the French Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2024

Catherine Packham
Affiliation:
University of Sussex
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Summary

This chapter addresses Wollstonecraft’s Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution (1794), the work in which she engages most explicitly with contemporary political economic thought. Noting that she gives particular prominence to the liberation of the grain trade in the early years of the Revolution, it explores how Wollstonecraft uses the issue to yoke commercial with political forms of liberty. The free circulation of grain was a totemic issue in Adam Smith’s new political economy of ‘natural liberty’, but it also pitted the market against traditional notions of ‘moral economy’. The chapter also explores Wollstonecraft’s links with Girondin politicians, including Jacques Pierre Brissot, and theirs with the Shelburne circle of the 1780s, and discusses the involvement of Americans Joel Barlow and Gilbert Imlay in provisioning the French Republic in the mid-1790s: activity which informed the hostility to commerce of Wollstonecraft’s later works.

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Mary Wollstonecraft and Political Economy
The Feminist Critique of Commercial Modernity
, pp. 112 - 146
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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