Adam Smith (1776), The Wealth of Nations, entire
  • Who is Smith's audience?
  • What kind of a book is the Wealth of Nations?
  • What does Smith think his game-changing insight is?
  • Is Smith correct? Is it a game-changing insight?
  • Is the insight in fact true?
  • What does Smith leave out of the Wealth of Nations?
  • Is Smith's theory of self-interest--in the narrow and in the extreme--a coherent one?
  • What is Smith's theory of law and order?
  • Does Smith have a theory of government failure?
  • What is Smith's theory of the moral sentiments?

Jan de Vries (1994), "The Industrious Revolution and the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic History 54:2 (June), pp. 249-70
  • How does Jan de Vries see the Low Countries in 1800 differing from the Low Countries in 1500?
  • The curious aspect of what did the peasants do in the nighttime in 1500...
  • What did peasants do in the nighttime in 1800?
  • What caused this difference?
  • Change in tastes?
  • Change in law-and-order?
  • Change in transportation costs?
  • A reflection of government policy? Or of technology?
  • Looking east to China...

Patrick O'Brien (1982), "European Economic Development: the Contribution of the Periphery," Economic History Review, 1-18.
  • Could European industrialization have been fueled by exploitation of the America?
  • Exploitation there was--a hell of a lot of exploitation.
  • But how do you get resources from there to here?
  • Possible channels

Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson (2005), "The Rise of Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change and Economic Growth," American Economic Review
  • A possible answer to O'Brien's question:
  • Merchants and political power
  • Bristol
  • Amsterdam
  • But counterexamples:
  • La Rochelle
  • Seville
  • Barcelona
  • Venice

Additional Questions:

  • Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson state that "It is undoubtedly true that colonial relations with the New World and Asia contributed to European growth." They go on to acknowledge that profits from these trades directly could not have accounted for much growth. How, then, can they, or anyone (i.e. the other readings), so confidently assert that the intercontinental trades caused "European growth." Does the answer depend on the definition of growth, or on a more complex model of the relationship of trade to growth?
  • "The treasure captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement and murder, floated back to the mother-country and were there turned into capital." -- Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 Ch. 32. Do the other assigned readings provide any basis for assessing the general truth of this passage from Marx? In what sense did colonial trade in the 1497-1800 period contribute to capital formation in Europe?
  • Institutions: Judging by the readings, how much of a difference does "good government"--that is, a government that cares about commerce and enforces contracts more-or-less honestly--appear to have made in the centuries before the industrial revolution in Britain?