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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

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

Christopher J. Berry

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748645329.003.0002

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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