The Irish connection and the birth of political economy: Petty and Cantillon
William Petty (1623-87) and Richard Cantillon (1680-1734) were perhaps the two most important figures in the development of economic thinking before about 1750. Both had strong Irish connections, though in quite different ways. Petty was not Irish, but wrote about Ireland and spent a substantial part of his adult life there. Cantillon, by contrast, was Irish by birth but spent most of his adult life in France. His writing was primarily theoretical, with no special reference to Ireland – the only specific reference to Ireland in his Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General was to Petty’s work. Petty was a key point of reference for Cantillon, while Cantillon was in turn an important influence on Quesnay, Adam Smith, and the classical tradition in economics.