Friday, March 31, 2017

NEWS OF THE FIRST USE OF THE WORD ‘CAPITALISM’

NEWS OF THE FIRST USE OF THE WORD ‘CAPITALISM’

I have long remonstrated with correspondents and with authors in the general media who insist that Adam Smith wrote about ‘capitalism’ (or in extreme cases actually ‘invented’ the word).
Relying as I do on the Oxford English DIctionary as my valuable source for all matters to do with the English language, I followed its statement that ‘capitalism’s first use in English is in William Makepiece Thackery’s novel, ‘The Newcomes”, a family tale linked very much to financial business matters in the 1850s, of which I have a copy.
But progress marches on, particularly in the continuous electronic search of all publications printed in English. Well, they have recently found some new first sources for ‘capitalism’.
Mark Brady, a professor of economics specialising in the use of mathematics, especially in the manipulation of statistical data. He is also a prolific publisher of articles in this field, both historical and current.
His most recent communication with me refers to two earlier uses of the word “capitalism” before Thackery’s:
The first reference is from The Standard in 1833 (23 April):
when the same tyranny of capitalism…
The second reference is from the Caledonian Mercury in 1848 (26 September):
That sweeping tide of capitalism and money loving…
I must thank Mark for his vigilance and for sharing this news with me.

It is better to be nearly right than absolutely wrong. If any readers come across even earlier references, I would be delighted to be corrected and brought up to date.

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