|Managing the Wealth of Nations: Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe
|Philipp Robinson Rössner
|Bristol University Press
Philipp Robinson Rössner's book is intended for scholars and students of European economic history. It is a comprehensive study of economic development in the German-speaking lands from the medieval period through the mid-19th century. Rössner’s objective is to illustrate the importance of cameralism in European economic development and to study the degrees to which “state interference” played a role in industrialization.
Philipp Robinson Rössner’s Managing the Wealth of Nations: Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe aims to reshape how scholars frame early modern European economics and particularly a form of economics called cameralism, commonly considered as a variant of mercantilism that proliferated in Germany. As a historian of Scottish and German early-modern and Enlightenment economics at the University of Manchester, Rössner makes the case that scholars of the Enlightenment and the economy who utilize mostly the narratives of Scottish economists such as Adam Smith to understand the mechanisms that drove industrialization are only telling part of the story. While Smith and other Scottish Enlightenment writers focused on free markets to promote industrialization, Rössner argues that cameralist policies in the German-speaking lands were equally influential and have been overlooked by European economic scholars.
Rössner’s deeply researched book focuses on the importance of cameralism in increasing global economic progress in contrast to what he argues is a misunderstanding of mercantilism which is that it often functioned as a constraint to economic development. He argues that the state in German-speaking lands contributed to directing economic progress whereas the Scottish economic Enlightenment narrative places economic development as a primary force behind the creation of the modern nation-state. To prove his argument, Rössner chronologically lays out several histories of economic development in Europe from the medieval period through the height of European industrialization in the mid-19th century. Each chapter of the book links together different themes of economic and monetary practice and policy. For example, Chapter Four examines the rise of modern capitalism by rethinking how historians have understood free markets. Chapter Six emphasizes the creation and circulation of money and monetary tools such as the devaluation of the currency to show how government regulation promoted economic progress. Rössner’s objective is to not only illustrate the importance of cameralism in European economic development but also to study the degrees to which “state interference” played a role in industrialization.
Rössner makes a convincing argument that European economic history would be more comprehensive if the narratives of the German-speaking lands were given appropriate attention. At the same time, European industrialization, particularly in Britain and France, was propelled in part by the emergence of the Atlantic Slave Trade. This is a subject that does not merit a lot of attention in this book but is a contributing factor as to why the paths of Britain and France were different from those states that did not engage as extensively in the practice. Some further exploration of this topic and how it fits into the bigger European context of economic history would be of merit to scholars.
This book is a text aimed at scholars of economic and intellectual history, and it is an interesting read for those with some knowledge of early modern and Enlightenment European history. The book's images and tables are mostly about the types of merchandise traded and are more for providing complementary context rather than furthering analysis. Rössner’s book may be too technical for a general readership, and undergraduate students might also find this book a bit challenging. With over 80 pages of endnotes and citations, this book does provide many helpful resources for further reading materials. Economic, intellectual, and social historians will be drawn to the descriptive accounts of how money and economic regulations evolved over time. For those interested in the ways in which European economies developed leading to industrialization, this book offers new perspectives on how to conceptualize mercantilism and free market economics.
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Palmer, K. (2023, March 27). Managing the Wealth of Nations: Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/review/334/managing-the-wealth-of-nations-political-economies/
Palmer, Kelly. "Managing the Wealth of Nations: Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified March 27, 2023. https://www.worldhistory.org/review/334/managing-the-wealth-of-nations-political-economies/.
Palmer, Kelly. "Managing the Wealth of Nations: Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 27 Mar 2023. Web. 04 Mar 2024.