The survival of Aristotelianism in early English mercantilism

AristotelesHandbooks of the history of economic thought typically assume a strict fault line between scholastic economics and mercantilism. Historically, the distinction between the two streams of thought was less evident—especially when it came to the style of argumentation, in which there is much continuity between the scholastic doctors and early mercantilists. However, although the latter did not employ the scholastic method, both traditions frequently called upon classical authorities to strengthen their arguments. What is striking is the high regard for Aristotle among the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century English mercantilists. By way of illustration, this article reviews the surprising role of Aristotelian ideas, primarily from the Metaphysics and Physics, within the debate between Gerard Malynes and Edward Misselden on England’s economics crisis.

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