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Intellectual contexts

This week we will consider three influential political and economic theorists: John Locke (Liz); David Hume (Olga) and Adam Smith (Clive).

Key Texts

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Martin Fitzpatrick (ed.), The Enlightenment World


John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (1690)

David Hume, Essays Moral, Political and Literary (1742) - read selections on politics and government

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) - read sections on political economy and role of state


  • How does Locke justify a right to use force?
  • How did the political context in which Locke wrote shape his political theory?
  • What was Hume's view of the British state (compared with France)?
  • How should political liberties be protected according to Hume?
  • How far did Adam Smith's ideas lay out the foundations of modern economic thought?
  • What was the role of the state according to Smith?