20 of the Most Important Books for Economics before 1940
...and where you can read (most of) them without leaving your computer screen.
Lists of 'the best' or 'the most important' are meant to be controversial. This list has the added feature that there is some dispute about whether one can even talk about 'economics' much before Adam Smith. But I get to flout that discussion in the hope of starting another. Let the arguments begin:
1. Aristotle, Politics (250 BCE?)
Among many possibilities try this 1853 collection: Politics and Economcs of Aristotle (start at pg. 2)
2. Corpus Juris Canonici (354 - 1505)
Successive prohibitions on usury, not always strictly biblical, challenged economic thought for a millennium.
3. Luca Pacioli, Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni & proportionalita ... (1494)
Includes what is regarded as the foundation of double-entry bookkeeping, at Section IX, Treatise XI apparently. Try this 1588 English translation onsite, thanks to our subscription to Early English Books Online. Or also onsite, see this later reproduction and translation.
4. Thomas Mun, England's Treasure by Forraign Trade (1664)
5. William Petty, Verbum Sapienti (1691)
At home use this 1899 collection from HathiTrust, starting at pg. 99 of vol. I.
6.Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, or, private vices publick benefits (1714).
7. David Hume, Political Discourses (1752)
8. Adam Smith, An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations (1776)
9. Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (2nd ed. 1803)
10. David Ricardo, On the principles of political economy, and taxation (1817)
You can read our copy of the first edition at home via HathiTrust.
11. John Stuart Mill, Principles of political economy: with some of their applications to social philosophy (1848)
You can read our copy of the second edition at home via the HathiTrust.
12. Karl Marx, Das Kapital (1867 --)
You can read at home this 1903 translation edited by Engels, via HathiTrust.
13. W. Stanley Jevons, Theory of Political Economy (1871)
At home you can read a first edition from our partners at the HathiTrust.
14. Leon Walras, Eléments d'économie politique pure (1874)
15. Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics (1890)
At home you can read the first edition via HathiTrust.
16. Thorstein Veblen, Theory of Business Enterprise (1904)
At home you can read a 1912 edition from the University of Minnesota.
17. Joseph Schumpeter, Theorie der wirtschaftlichen entwicklung (1912)
18. Wesley Clair Mitchell, Business Cycles (1913)
19. John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936)
You can join the queue for one of the circulating copies of a later edition, or you can read the first edition onsite. We wouldn't want to interfere with the incentive for Keynes to create more work. Oh wait.
20. John Hicks, Value and Capital (1939)
The first edition can be read onsite.