Originally delivered in the form of lectures at Glasgow, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations Books I-III laid the foundations of economic theory in general and 'classical' economics in particular, and this Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Andrew Skinner.
The publication of The Wealth of Nations in 1776 coincided with America's Declaration of Independence, and with this landmark treatise on political economy, Adam Smith paved the way for modern capitalism, arguing that a truly free market - fired by competition yet guided as if by an 'invisible hand' to ensure justice and equality - was the engine of a fair and productive society. Books I - III of The Wealth of Nations examine the 'division of labour' as the key to economic growth, by ensuring the interdependence of individuals within society. They also cover the origins of money and the importance of wages, profit, rent and stocks; but the real sophistication of his analysis derives from the fact that it encompasses a combination of ethics, philosophy and history to create a vast panorama of society.
This edition contains an analytical introduction offering an in-depth discussion of Smith as an economist and social scientist, as well as a preface, further reading and explanatory notes.
Adam Smith (1723-90) was born in Glasgow and educated at Glasgow and Oxford. Two years after his return to Scotland, Smith moved to Edinburgh, where he delivered lectures on Rhetoric. In 1751 Smith was appointed Professor of Logic at Glasgow, but was translated to chair of Moral Philosophy in 1752. The Theory of Moral Sentiments was published in 1759, and The Wealth of Nations in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence.
If you enjoyed The Wealth of Nations, you might like Karl Marx's Capital, also available in Penguin Classics.
"Adam Smith's enormous authority resides, in the end, in the same property that we discover in Marx: not in any ideology, but in an effort to see to the bottom of things."
--Robert L. Heilbroner