Friday, September 16, 2005

Writing Adam Smith for Palgrave’s “Great Thinkers in Economics Series”

Diary 4: Writing Adam Smith for Palgrave’s “Great Thinkers in Economics Series”

I spent all of August and a week of September writing my next Adam Smith book. Like all intentions, mine were interrupted by some residual work I had to complete for Edinburgh Business School: I spent much of June and July finishing a DBA course: Strategic Negotiation”, which itself had been held up nearly two years by my writing “Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy” (Palgrave March 2005). Once this was away via attachments on e-mail and the copy editing completed, and a final look through of the PDF, I got back to Smith II (as I dub it).

But I have had to stop again because Heriot-Watt University’s distance course texts are published with their on-line course materials (more cases, exercises and essays) and these amount to a near volume-size of extra writing, plus the first examination papers with solutions (commencing in June 2006).

Plus, I am returning to Edinburgh from France until at least the end of January. I will get back to Smith II, all being well, sometime in mid-end October (hurray!) and when I return to France in March I will stay until the ms is finished. That is my plan.

So far I am up to chapter 4 of Smith II. Progress on the first draft is slow, even absent the above interruptions, because the nature of the Palgrave series means that a large proportion of the readership will be professional and academic economists, and while this is not the exclusive audience I have to check and cross-check every date and source so that it is not criticised for sloppiness. Sometimes looking for a vague source, even with my fairly comprehensive Smithian library, takes a couple of hours, or it seems like it does. Fortunately, I have to hand all of his Works.

The gem among them is the Glasgow edition of “Adam Smith’s Works and Correspondence”, backed with the Penguin edition, edited by Andrew Skinner (who else?) with his insightful introductions to the two volumes. I also have the 1937 Edwin Cannan’s edition, which with its margin notes, is also excellent for locating things. Andrew Skinner’s and Haakonssen’s Index to Smith’s Works is a boon to the writer trying to be fastidious.

While in Edinburgh I will return to the University library and continue the journal trawl, focussing on explaining Smith, not in arguing with the interpretations of others, except to indicate I read them.

I have the main theme of Smith II more or less worked out in my mind. My intention in that a reader will know authoritatively about Smith’s political economy and how it integrates with his moral philosophy, something that economists tend not to investigate, consequently missing the depth of Smith’s contribution.


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