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The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment$
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Christopher J. Berry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748645329

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645329.001.0001

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. Commerce, Stages and the Natural History of Society

. Commerce, Stages and the Natural History of Society

(p.32) 2. Commerce, Stages and the Natural History of Society
The Idea of Commercial Society in the Scottish Enlightenment

Christopher J. Berry

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that one of the best known ideas in the thought of the Scottish Enlightenment, namely, their notion of the four-stages (hunting, herding, farming, commerce) is best interpreted as an instance of Dugald Stewart's summary characterization of ‘natural history’. After a close analysis of both the primary and secondary literature the Scots’ account of the emergence of commerce is examined. The focus of this account is their explanation of the break-up of feudalism (3rd stage) and the establishment of commerce as a way of life. This establishes the ‘distinctiveness’ of commerce and situates it within a temporal narrative

Keywords:   Four Stages, Feudalism, Commerce, History

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