Harmony and the Balance

An Intellectual History of Seventeenth-Century English Economic Thought
Andrea Finkelstein
Places the work of major economic writers of seventeenth-century England within the broader context of the intellectual revolutions of the period


Frequently the achievements of pioneering economic writers are assessed by imposing contemporary theories of markets, econ-omics, politics, and history. At last, here is a book that appraises the work of the leading English economic writers of the seventeenth century using intellectual concepts of the time, rather than present-day analytical models, in order to place their economic theories in context. In an analysis that tracks the Stuart century, Andrea Finkelstein traces the progress of such figures as Gerard de Malynes, William Petty, John Locke, and Charles Davenant by inviting us into the great trading companies and halls of parliament where we relive the debates over the coinage, the interest rate, and the nature of money. Furthermore, we see them model their works on the latest developments in physiology, borrow ideas from bookkeeping, and argue over the nature of numbers in an effort to construct a market theory grounded in objective moral value. This comprehensive approach clarifies the relationship between the century's economic ideas and its intellectual thought so that, in the end, readers will be able to judge for themselves whether this really was the age of the Capitalist Geist.

Finkelstein has crafted her book to be both inclusive and interdisciplinary by skillfully integrating biography, political history, economic history, and intellectual theory as well as the economic heritage of its subjects. While the concepts are far from simple, Finkelstein's adroit style presents her analysis in an extremely accessible manner.

Andrea Finkelstein is Assistant Professor of History, City University of New York.

Praise / Awards

  • "In this lovely work of scholarship Finkelstein resists mightily the temptation to prove herself more clever than the seventeenth-century economic thinkers she studies. In her account the dead find their own voice and speak to us of the subtle interplay of market and society. Globalization debates begin here."
    ---David M. Levy, Center for the Study of Public Choice, George Mason University
  • "Dr. Finkelstein has succeeded in making sense out of the economic confusion---intellectual and practical---that dominated the seventeenth century in England and Western Europe. By thoroughly analyzing the writings of the leading economic thinkers and doers she has found the key to our understanding of their century---a concern for true value, upon which bullionism itself was built. Through her study, Finkelstein has shown the transition from medieval to modern economic thought. We are in her debt."
    ---Stuart E. Prall, Department of History, Queen's College, City University of New York
  • "There is much to praise in Harmony and Balance. Written with admirable clarity, it brings together two broad currents in seventeenth-century English intellectual life. . . in ways that complicate, and deepen, our understanding of each."
    ---Richard Teichgraeber, Albion, Volume 33, No. 3 (2001)
  • ". . . the issues are clearly laid out, the questions addressed are very important, and the argument is convincing. Finkelstein's book will certainly be of interest to historians and postgraduates working on the intellectual, cultural, and economic history of seventeenth-century England."
    ---Michael J. Braddick, University of Sheffield, American Historical Review, June 2002
  • "Finkelstein has presented us with an insightful and, at times, thought-provoking book on economic ideas in seventeenth-century England. It is good starting point for anyone interested in gaining a deeper insight into the controversies and ideas that shaped early modern economic thinking."
    ---Edward J. Harpham, University of Texas, Dallas, EH.NET, June 2002
  • "Andrea Finkelstein has produced a little gem on what has become an increasingly esoteric topic. . . . Finkelstein has a talent for identifying the important issues raised in publications of her nine intellectuals. Most important, she has the rare ability to explain in concise fashion this often-obtuse and confusing material to readers with only a rudimentary knowledge of economic principles. Her language is accessible to most historians as well as economists."
    ---Edwin J. Perkins, Enterprise & Society: The International Journal of Business History, September 2001
  • "This is an important work underlining the need to set the history of economic thinking in a wider intellectual context."
    ---Anthony Brewer, Journal Of The History Of Economic Thought, Volume 23, No. 3
  • "This is an intellectual history of nine seventeenth-century economic writers, chose because of their prominence in histories of the economic thought of this period. . . . Its coverage of the seventeenth century and its suggestion of important connections between the history of economic thought and the history of science are particularly welcome."
    ---Natasha Glaisyer, The Economic History Review, August 2001

Look Inside

Copyright © 2000, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted May 2003.

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Product Details

  • 392 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02384-4

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