It is the aim of this book to present a critical account of the whole development of economic thought in the leading nations of the Occidental world; and, while keeping the purely economic viewpoint, to indicate some of the most important relations of economic thought with philosophy and environmental conditions. As it is designed to serve as a textbook for the growing number of advanced students who study the history of Economics, every effort has been made to give a fair and well-rounded account of the thought of the leading writers, avoiding the emphasis of some newly discovered point or interesting but obscure writer which would characterize a monograph.
Doubtless there will be some difference of opinion about the relative space here devoted to the different economists, and some cases of omission or bare mention will be criticized. It should therefore be stated that a twofold test has been the basis of selection in this regard: first, what has been the writers effect upon the stream of economic thought? next, what important point in theory has he originated or developed? If his contribution has been both discovery, in theory and a profound effect on his contemporaries, then he deserves considerable discussion. These two phases of importance do not necessarily go together, as the experience of Lloyd, Gossen, and others bears witness.
In covering so vast a field it has seemed desirable to standardize the method of treatment to some extent.