Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham in the Australian Colonies
History of Economics Review, 2017, Volume 68(1), pp 2-16
15 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017 Last revised: 22 May 2020
Date Written: May 28, 2017
How did early colonial Australians think about liberalism, economics and political economy more generally? Colonial Australia has been described variously as having a neoclassical, enlightenment, or Benthamite political culture. This paper provides an empirical approach to the question of early Australian ideas. Exploiting the records of 1,891 book sales and auctions in colonial Australia between 1800 and 1849, the paper examines the relative prevalence of key economic, political, and liberal texts available to colonial Australians. The works of neoclassical authors such as Adam Smith and John Locke were far more prevalent, and more likely in colonial demand, than those of Jeremy Bentham. To the extent utilitarian ideas were prevalent they were in the form of William Paley’s conservatism than Bentham’s radicalism.
Keywords: Australia, history of economic thought, economic history, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, William Paley, utilitarianism
JEL Classification: B12, N17
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation