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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2009

3 - The Romantics and the political economists

from Part I - The Ends of Enlightenment
The field of political economy assumed its initial shape over the course of the eighteenth century in Britain, especially in the work of Adam Smith. The eighteenth-century British political economy, which was a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, and nascent Romanticism emphasized the natural processes that bring humans and their environments into reciprocal relations. The political economy came to have a dreadfully bad odour among the most prominent literary figures of the early nineteenth century. This chapter sketches the development of hostilities, from the outraged reaction through disagreements about the national economy during the Napoleonic War years, and into disputes about the nature of labour, value and happiness. As political economy coalesced in the post-war period around Ricardo's analyses, it increasingly became a kind of life science. Ricardo's Principles of Political Economy and Taxation opens with the question of how a society's wealth is distributed among the three parties involved in its production: labour, capital, and rent.
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The Cambridge History of English Romantic Literature
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