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J. SHIELD NICHOLSON, M.A., D.Sc.
PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL ECONOMY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH ;
LONDON, AND VICTORIA
Norwood Press :
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
When I was appointed in 1880 to the Chair of Political Economy in the University of Edinburgh I made several good resolutions. One that I kept was not to write out my lectures in full. With short notes it is much more easy to alter the material, and to adjust the emphasis according to the devel. opment of the subject or changes in affairs. To begin with, I took Mill's Principles of Political Economy as a text-book. Mill mastered and expressed with great lucidity and force of style all that he considered best in his predecessors, and if he was not very original himself, he has been the cause or occasion of originality in others. In England at any rate many of the recent changes in economic theory may be traced to the criticism or development of Mill's teaching. At the same time the abundance of these commentaries – to say nothing of the work of both foreign and English writers on independent lines — has rendered Mill's treatment year by year less satisfactory as a survey of the whole subject, though it is still excellent for students who have time to trace the growth of economic thought.
The present work is intended to cover the same ground as that of Mill. It has grown up out of my notes in the way described, and whilst presenting the older doctrines takes account also of subsequent modifications. It must be regarded, however, not so much as an abstract of the opinions of others as an independent attempt to recast the subject in the light of these opinions.
In reality I owe far more to Adam Smith than to Mill. The great defect of Mill's work is the want of historical knowledge, whilst a large part of the Wealth of Nations is history of the highest order. I have availed myself of the authority of the older master to include a much greater amount of history than is usual in a statement of principles. The recent attention devoted to economic history seems also to make this procedure desirable.
The mode in which the materials for this work were gradually collected and modified renders it impossible for me to make due acknowledgment to every writer, though I have tried to do so throughout the book. A teacher cannot trace the origin of every change of exposition.
I must, however, express my great indebtedness to Professor Sidgwick and Professor Marshall, not only for their published writings but for the influence of their teaching whilst a student at Cambridge – to the former especially for the ideas recently expanded in the Elements of Politics, to the latter for the more purely economic work that has now taken a permanent form in the Principles of Economics. I take the greater pleasure in this acknowledgment as I differ from both in at least one favourite doctrine.
Dr. Keynes has kindly revised the proofs whilst passing through the press, and my colleague, Professor Wallace, has aided me with his practical knowledge in the chapters on land and agriculture. Mr. A. B. Clark, M.A., a former pupil, has prepared the Index.
J. SHIELD NICHOLSON. UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH,
1 Cf. also the same writer's Principles of Political Economy, Book III.