Monday, November 14, 2005

Reading "Wealth of Nations" a Rite of Passage?

William Grimes of The New York Times has his review of Last Gentleman Adventurer: coming of age in the Arctic: Edward Beauclerk Maurice (Houghton Mifflin) republished in Financial Express (India), 13 November. Grimes heads his review as: a “March to Manhood: an enthralling account of a schoolboy’s stay among the inuits of Canada.”

It opens:

“In 1930, a desperate year, Edward Beauclerk Maurice, an English schoolboy, took a desperate step. Inspired by a documentary on the Canadian Arctic, he signed up for a five-year apprenticeship with the Hudson’s Bay Co.

Under the agreement, he would be posted to one of the company’s six trading posts on Baffin Island. At 16, he became, in the words of the company’s original charter, a “gentleman adventurer”.

The Last Gentleman Adventurer is the enthralling account of Maurice’s stay among the Inuit of the Far North, and his evolution from the callow, accident-prone youth the local Inuit called “the Boy” into the skilled hunter, amateur doctor and trader they renamed Issumatak, “One Who Thinks.”

Among the other interesting tit bits of Edward’s life in the Arctic we have:

Searching for reading material at his first post, Maurice’s choices ranged from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to a thriller, Blood Ran Down the Bishop’s Face.”

Now that has got to be among the most unusual references to Adam Smith you are likely to see. “Wealth of Nations” apparently was on a shelf in his first trading post, but whether he chose it or the thriller is not stated. He probably would have had to read the thriller a dozen times to get the same amount of reading time from the “Wealth of Nations”.

Or he could have looked up Smith’s comments on his employers, the Hudson Bay Company (Book V, pages 743-4), and reflected on Smith’s cogent reasons for why he did not think the Hudson Bay Company was likely to have many competitors in the “miserable, though extensive country”, and why he thought it unable to make higher monopoly profits despite it nominal ‘monopoly’.

As to the thriller’s merits or attractions, I have no information.

Read the review at:


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