The wealth of nations
The first edition of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was published in 1776. Since then it has gone through numerous editions and has been translated into every major modern language. Put simply, it is one of the most important books in history.
Smith intended The Wealth of Nations to be a broad-ranging investigation into how commerce had come to influence contemporary society, for good and ill. Its wide scope, and Smith’s attempt to prove the working of an interdependent system of principles, meant the work was highly innovative. So much so that it is credited with giving birth to a whole new science: economics.
Split over five separate books, the work combines history, politics and philosophy with Smith’s own critical observations of the world around him. Since its publication, The Wealth of Nations has been analysed, discussed and argued over, especially those sections dealing with the invisible and self-correcting motivation of individuals. Contrasting interpretations of the work have since shaped economic thinking and coloured the reputation of Adam Smith.