Adam Smith, War, and Commerce

  • Edwin van de Haar
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan History of International Thought Series book series (PMHIT)


In contrast to David Hume, Adam Smith (1723–1790) has always been associated with international relations, particularly through his pleas for free trade. However, among his contemporaries he was best known for his moral theory, at least most of his life. Smith was an academic and writer for most of his life, although he became a commissioner of customs in his last years. He had limited personal international experience, except for a long trip to France and Geneva as a tutor to the Duke of Buccleuch. Yet his views and interests were by no means provincial. Like his good friend Hume, Smith had more to say about international politics than is commonly understood. He frequently discussed the situation in Europe and the (American) colonies and displayed knowledge of Asia. His views on issues such as national defense, war, and empire are sometimes discussed by Smith scholars, but hardly by IR academics. With the notable exception of an article by Andrew Walter, there are no comprehensive analyses of Smith’s ideas on international affairs. This is curious, given the sometimes lengthy remarks on international issues that can be found in all his works, with the exception of Essays on Philosophical Subjects and Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.


Free Trade International Relation International Politics Individual Liberty Classical Liberal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    Long, Douglas. “Adam Smith’s Politics.” In The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith. Edited by K. Haakonssen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006. pp. 294–296.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Skinner, Andrew S. A System of Social Science: Papers Relating to Adam Smith. Oxford: Clarendon. 1979. p. 75.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Smith, Adam. The Correspondence of Adam Smith. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. 1987. p. 108.Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    Fleischacker, Samuel. On Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. 2004. pp. 250–252.Google Scholar
  5. 32.
    Winch, Donald. Adam Smith’s Politics: An Essay in Historiographic Revision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1978. p. 105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 44.
    West, Edwin. Adam Smith into the Twenty-First Century. Cheltenham and Brookfield: Edward Elgar. 1996. pp. 26–27.Google Scholar
  7. 50.
    Winch, Donald. Riches and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1750–1834. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1996. pp. 117–119.Google Scholar
  8. 51.
    Hoogensen, Gunhild. International Relations, Security and Jeremy Bentham. London and New York: Routledge. 2005. p. 109.Google Scholar
  9. 52.
    Fitzgibbons, Athol. Adam Smith’s System of Liberty, Wealth and Virtue: The Moral and Political Foundations of the Wealth of Nations. Oxford: Clarendon. 1995. p. 122.Google Scholar
  10. 54.
    Letwin, William. “Was Adam Smith a Liberal?” In Traditions of Liberalism: Essays on John Locke, Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. Edited by K. Haakonssen. St. Leonards: Centre for Independent Studies. 1988. pp. 63–80.Google Scholar
  11. 56.
    Neimanis, George J. “Militia vs. the Standing Army in the History of Economic Thought from Adam Smith to Friedrich Engels.” Military Affairs 44 (1):28–32. 1980. p. 29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 58.
    Margerum Harien, Christine. “A Reappraisal of Classical Economic Nationalism and Economic Liberalism.” International Studies Quarterly 43:733–744. 1999. pp. 735–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 59.
    Hont, Istvan. Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2005. pp. 6, 383.Google Scholar
  14. 61.
    Fleming, J. Marcus. “Mercantilism and Free Trade Today.” In The Market and the State: Essays in Honour of Adam Smith. Edited by T. Wilson and A.S. Skinner. Oxford: Clarendon. 1976. pp. 164–165.Google Scholar
  15. 62.
    Sowell, Thomas. “Adam Smith in Theory and Practice.” In Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations. 1776–1976 Bicentennial Essays. Edited by F.R. Glahe. Boulder: Colorado Associated University Press. 1978. pp. 152–154.Google Scholar
  16. 63.
    Teichgraeber, Richard F. “Free Trade” and Moral Philosophy: Rethinking the Sources of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Durham: Duke University Press. 1986. pp. 18–19.Google Scholar
  17. 71.
    Billet, Leonard. “Justice, Liberty and Economy.” In Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations: 1776–1976 Bicentennial Essays. Edited by F.R. Glahe. Boulder: Colorado Associated University Press. 1978. pp. 103–107.Google Scholar
  18. 73.
    Coats, A.W. “Adam Smith and the Mercantile System.” In Essays on Adam Smith. Edited by A.S. Skinner and T. Wilson. Oxford: Clarendon. 1975. p. 232.Google Scholar
  19. 78.
    Stevens, David. “Smith’s Thoughts on the State of the Contest with America, February 1778.” In Correspondence of Adam Smith. Edited by E.C. Mossner and I.S. Ross. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. 1987. pp. 377–385.Google Scholar
  20. 79.
    Jackson, Robert H. The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000. pp. vii–182.Google Scholar
  21. 80.
    For example, Kauppi, Mark V., and Paul R. Viotti. The Global Philosophers: World Politics in Western Thought. New York and Toronto: Lexington Books. 1992. p. 204.Google Scholar
  22. 81.
    Smith, Michael Joseph. “Liberalism and International Reform.” In Traditions of International Ethics. Edited by T. Nardin and D.R. Mapel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1992. pp. 201–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 82.
    Burchill, Scott. “Liberalism.” In Theories of International Relations. Edited by S. Burchill, A. Linklater, R. Devetak, J. Donnelly, M. Paterson, C. Reus-Smitand J. True. Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave. 2005.pp. 55–83.Google Scholar
  24. 83.
    See, for example, Northedge, F.S., and M.J. Grieve. A Hundred Years of International Relations. London: Gerald Duckworth. 1971. pp. 49, 244;Google Scholar
  25. Waltz, Kenneth N. Man, the State and War:A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press. 1954. pp. 86, 89, 94, 195;Google Scholar
  26. Holbraad, Carsten. Internationalism and Nationalism in European Political Thought. Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2003. pp. 40, 187;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Baldwin, David A. “Neoliberalism, Neorealism, and World Politics.” In Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate. Edited by D.A. Baldwin. New York: Columbia University Press. 1993. pp. 21–22;Google Scholar
  28. Richardson, James L. Contending Liberalisms in World Politics: Ideology & Power. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner. 2001. pp. 32, 35,42, 124;Google Scholar
  29. Keohane, Robert O. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1989. pp. 19, 51, 52, 211;Google Scholar
  30. Walker, R.B.J. Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1993. p. 94; Brown. Sovereignty, Rights and Justice, p. 52; Brown. Understanding International Relations. p. 153; Wight. Three Traditions, pp. 114, 263; Michael Smith. Liberalism, p. 204.Google Scholar
  31. 84.
    Doyle, Michael W. Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism and Socialism. New York and London: W.W. Norton. 1997. pp. 231–241.Google Scholar
  32. 85.
    Howard, Michael. War and the Liberal Conscience. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. 2004. p. 25.Google Scholar
  33. 86.
    Oneal, John R., and Bruce Russett. “The Classical Liberals Were Right: Democracy, Interdependence, and Conflict, 1950–1985.” International Studies Quarterly 41(2):267–294. 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 87.
    Panke, Diana, and Thomas Risse. “Liberalism.” In International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity. Edited by T. Dunne, M. Kurki, and S. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2007. p. 97.Google Scholar
  35. 88.
    Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston: Beacon Hill. 1957. pp. 212, 137–140.Google Scholar
  36. 89.
    Carr, E.H. The Twenty Years Crisis1919–1939. London: Papermac. 1995. pp. 42–49.Google Scholar
  37. 93.
    Walter, Andrew Wyatt. “Adam Smith and the Liberal Tradition in International Relations.” In Classical Theories of International Relations. Edited by I. Clark and I.B. Neumann. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan. 1996. pp. 142–167.Google Scholar
  38. 97.
    Oncken, August. Adam Smith und Immanuel Kant. Der Einklang und das Wechselverhältniss ihrer Lehren über Sitte, Staat und Wirtschaft. Leipzig: Von Dunecker & Humblot. 1877. pp. 140–146.Google Scholar
  39. 102.
    Cairns, John W. “Legal Theory.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment. Edited by A. Broadie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003. p. 227.Google Scholar
  40. 103.
    Ross. Life of Adam Smith, pp. 72, 120; Irwin. Against the Tide. p. 69; Rashid, Salim. “The Intellectual Standards of Adam Smith’s Day.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 11(Fall):107–116. 1994.Google Scholar
  41. 104.
    Lieberman, David. “Adam Smith on Justice, Rights, and Law.” In The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith. Edited by K. Haakonssen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006. pp. 218–219.Google Scholar
  42. 105.
    Mizuta, Hiroshi. Adam Smith’s Library: A Catalogue. Oxford: Clarendon. 2000. pp. xvii, 108–110, 207.Google Scholar
  43. 108.
    Ebeling, Richard M. “Classical Liberalism in the Twenty-First Century: War and Peace.” In Liberty, Security, and the War on Terrorism. Edited by R.M. Ebeling and J.G. Hornberger. Fairfax: Future of Freedom Foundation. 2003. p. 174.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Edwin van de Haar 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edwin van de Haar

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations