Adam Smith Program
Department of Economics · George Mason University

Adam Smith Reading Group



The reading group meets five Fridays a semester, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM. The group reads mostly eighteenth-century literature relating to Smith, political economy, natural jurisprudence, and liberalism. The group periodically reads Smith's Essays on Philosophical Subjects, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, Lectures on Jurisprudence, and correspondence.





61R8g4WomWL._SL1400_.jpg   This term (Spring 2024) we will read Grotius on the Rights of War and Peace, ed., trans., and abridged by William Whewell (originally published by Cambridge, 185). PDF ONLINE HERE.

We have some copies of the books available for graduate students. Interested students should write to



Past Reading Groups:

Fall 2023: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist—The Gideon Edition (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002 [1787–88]).

Spring 2023: David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, Literary, ed. E. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1994 [1777])

Fall 2022: Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which first appeared in 1904-05 and in a new edition in 1920. The first English translation, by Talcott Parsons, with foreword by R. H. Tawney, was 1930, Scribners; Selections from: The Protestant Ethic Debate : Weber's Replies to His Critics, 1907-1910, edited by D. Chalcraft, A. Harrington, and M. Shields, 2001.

Spring 2022: Adam Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belle Lettres, ed. J.C. Bryce (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985); The Correspondenceof Adam Smith, ed. E.C. Mossner and I.S. Ross (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987).

Fall 2021: Adam Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence, ed R.L. Meek, D.D. Raphael, and P.G. Stein (Liberty Fund republication of OUP volume).

Spring 2021:Adam Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W.P.D. Wightman (Liberty Fund republication of OUP volume).

Fall 2020: Alexis de Tocqueville, The Ancien Regime and the Revolution. Trans. G. Bevan. Penguin Classics.

Spring 2020: Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (2014, Belknap Press paperback 2017).

Fall 2019: Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). In Vol. 2 of Selected Works of Edmund Burke. Ed. E.J. Payne (1875). New republication Foreword by Francis Canavan (Liberty Fund, 1999).

Spring 2019: Gershom Carmichael (1672-1729): Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael; Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746): A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy (Philosophiae Moralis Institutio Compendiaria), 1742-5/1747.

Fall 2018: Arthur M. Melzer's Philosophy between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing (UChicagoP, 2014); The Hume-Rousseau affair (1766).

Spring 2018: Henry C. Clark, ed., Commerce, Culture, and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism before Adam Smith (Liberty Fund, 2003).

Fall 2017: David Hume's History of England, Vols. III, IV, V, and VI (these four volumes cover the Tudors and the Stuarts up through the Glorious Revolution).

Spring 2017: Adam Smith's 1763-1764 Lectures on Jurisprudence, known as LJ (B).

Fall 2016: Focus on Grotius and Pufendorf; selections from Grotius, The Free Sea; The Rights of War and Peace and from Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, According to the Natural Law.

Spring 2016: Focus on Locke's Second Treatise; selections from the Second Treatise; essays by Michael Zuckert; selections from Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History.

Fall 2015: Arthur M. Melzer's Philosophy between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing (UChicagoP, 2014).

Spring 2015: Selections from Rousseau, The Discourses and Other Political Writings, ed. V. Gourevitch; The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings, ed. V. Gourevitch; Hume, Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. E. Miller.

Fall 2014: Adam Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W.P.D. Wightman (Liberty Fund); Daniel Hannan, Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.

Spring 2014: Adam Smith, Correspondence; Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World.Fall 2013: Dugald Stewart, Account of Adam Smith; Nicholas Phillipson's Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life(Yale University Press, 2010).

Spring 2013: Adam Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence.

Fall 2012: Selections from David Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals; Adam Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.