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  • Cited by 12
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
April 2020
Print publication year:
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Book description

Although many of Edmund Burke's speeches and writings contain prominent economic dimensions, his economic thought seldom receives the attention it warrants. Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke's Political Economy stands as the most comprehensive study to date of this fascinating subject. In addition to providing rigorous textual analysis, Collins unearths previously unpublished manuscripts and employs empirical data to paint a rich historical and theoretical context for Burke's economic beliefs. Collins integrates Burke's reflections on trade, taxation, and revenue within his understanding of the limits of reason and his broader conception of empire. Such reflections demonstrate the ways that commerce, if properly managed, could be an instrument for both public prosperity and imperial prestige. More importantly, Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke's Political Economy raises timely ethical questions about capitalism and its limits. In Burke's judgment, civilizations cannot endure on transactional exchange alone, and markets require ethical preconditions. There is a grace to life that cannot be bought.


'Gregory Collins elegantly demonstrates that Edmund Burke, like his great contemporary Adam Smith, understood that commerce, properly conducted, can make individuals and communities not only better off, but better overall. Burke, like Smith, understood that political and economic thinking should intersect in a theory of moral sentiments.'

George F. Will Source: Washington Post

'With care and rigor leavened by an engaging writing style, Gregory Collins has dramatically advanced our understanding of Burke’s economic thought. This is an indispensable guide for all future Burke scholars.'

Yuval Levin Source: National Affairs

'A thorough study of Edmund Burke’s thought on economics in which every aspect is well-considered, every scholar answered, every point nicely phrased. This is a major contribution to Burke scholarship and to our understanding of the beginnings and principles of modern economics.'

Harvey C. Mansfield - Harvard University and Stanford University

‘The book is impressive in its thoroughness on Burke on issue after issue, focusing on his words and deeds.’

Daniel B. Klein Source: National Review

‘This very thorough and thoughtful book goes a long way toward setting the record straight.’

Tyler Cowen Source: Marginal Revolution

‘… the definitive account of Burke’s economic thought, one which shows how Burke’s political economy displays 'an underlying coherence that incorporated elements of prudence, utility, and tradition.'

Samuel Greeg Source: Law and Liberty

'Gregory Collins's study of the economic ideas of Burke is a comprehensive achievement. It will set the terms of discussion for a generation on Burke's political economy and its relation to his thinking about manners and morals.'

David Bromwich - Yale University, author of The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke

'A revelation.'

David Brooks Source: The New York Times

'Collins’s treatment of an undervalued aspect of Burkean thought will earn the prescriptive right to stand, for a long time, as the definitive study of the Anglo-Irish statesman’s political economy. Collins has done students of Burke and of political economy alike an immense service.'

Greg Weiner Source: Assumption College

'The first serious monograph dedicated to examining [Burke’s] views on political economy … An important and original study that adds significantly to our understanding of Burke.'

Richard Bourke Source: University of Cambridge

'A brilliant book, full of insight and illumination.'

The Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP Source: Financial Secretary to the Treasury, HM Government

'A deep study.'

James Grant Source: Wall Street Journal

‘Commerce and Manners is, undoubtedly, the most comprehensive study available on Burke’s economic thought … the most critical merit of the work is that it places Burke’s thought in the intellectual context and resolves any prima facie contradictions, frictions, or discrepancies that may appear in his works. Overall, the book delivers what it promises: a systematic exposition of the interaction of commerce and ethics in the Anglo-Irish statesman’s thought.’

Ioannes P. Chountis Source: History of Economic Ideas

'A tremendous achievement, one that reflects a great deal of thought and inspires a good deal of reflection as well … deeply researched and well-argued.'

Jerry Z. Muller Source: The Catholic University of America

'A fine book. It makes both an important contribution to contemporary debates about conservatism and freedom and to Burke scholarship.'

Peter Berkowitz Source: Hoover Institution, Stanford University

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