John Herbert Harington (1764 -1828)

jurist, orientalist, and colonial administrator.

HARINGTON began his career with the East India Company in 1780, taking up a junior position in revenue administration for Bengal and spending the rest of his working life in India in the Bengal Civil Service. Rising rapidly through the ranks, Harington concerned himself with the legal affairs of the EI Company government, based in Fort William. As his interest in law grew, so, too, did his interest in Indian civilisation, and he was an active member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. In 1801, Harington was appointed Puisne Judge of the Sadr Diwani and Nizamat Adalat; by 1811, he was Chief Judge. His key work, Analysis of the Laws and Regulations of the Fort William Government in Bengal (1805-17), was a standard text for colonial administrators and lawyers in the nineteenth century. Harington became Professor of Law at Fort William College and a member (later President) of its Council, and was member of the Supreme Council and President of the Board of Trade 1822-23, and again 1825-27. In a different vein, Harington organized the first publication from manuscript of the Persian poet, Sa’di. He died on 9 April 1828 shortly after returning to London.



Major-General Thomas Hardwicke (1755-1835)

soldier, natural historian, and East India Company man.

HARDWICKE joined the East India Company in 1777 as a soldier, working his way up to the rank of major-general in 1819. During his career as a soldier, he travelled widely throughout the Indian subcontinent, exploiting his itinerant lifestyle to pursue a passion for natural history and commissioning countless unknown local artists to record the many zoological specimens he collected along the way, whether live or dead. Together these amounted to the most extensive record of Indian fauna ever assembled by a single individual, with 4,500 pieces eventually published as Illustrations of Indian Zoology (1830-35). Hardwicke was known by, and corresponded with, many other zoologists and naturalists working on the subcontinent, as well as with Sir Joseph Banks back in England. In 1813, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Hardwicke retired from the army and returned to England in 1826, where he financed the publication of his collection of illustrations, dying in 1835 before the text for Illustrations of Indian Zoology was complete. His collection was bequeathed to the British Museum, from where parts of it were removed to the Natural History Museum.

Elias Greig and William Christie, University of Sydney

Currency and Finance

the consideration of currency – money and other representations of value that did not themselves establish that value – constituted one of the most perplexing and convoluted aspects of romantic-era finance, and one which preoccupied the Edinburgh under Jeffrey’s editorship.

MONEY exists, broadly, in two particular formations, commodity money in which the value of the money derives from the material – usually a metal – from which it is made, and fiat money, whose value is determined by the support of the government. In practice, economies contain complex blends of these forms, along with an intermediate form of paper money that is exchangeable, at least in principle, for a specific commodity, such as a quantity of gold.  Money is in general issued by governments, but various mediums of exchange that serve similar purposes can be produced by banks and other financial institutions. The organization of money, its rates of circulation, and structures of loaning that convert money into a commodity in itself, all contribute to the financial industry as it develops from the founding of the Bank of England in 1694. As international trade increases, the exchange of values between nations using distinct currencies required both legal regulation and increased public comprehension of prices. The regulation of money, such as fixing wages to the price of bread in the Speenhamland Acts of 1795, simultaneously shaped and regulated markets.  Because of mounting governmental debts and decreasing stores of gold, in the midst of a run on the banking system, the government in 1797 enacted a Banking Restriction that suspended the government’s obligation to exchange paper money for gold. The result was a transformation of the monetary system – and the rhetoric of it – into one in which financial stability was located in the solidity of the merchant class and the government. For the founders of the Edinburgh, especially Jeffrey and Horner, the Bank Restriction Act served to demonstrate the effectiveness of public discourse in regulating economic activity. Yet the effects, both local and international, both immediate and long-term, were subject to intricate debates, and from 1797 to 1821, when the Restriction was lifted, the ‘Bullionist’ controversy raged throughout the pamphlet and periodical presses on the effects of the Restriction Act and a variety of other measures that shaped monetary policies. Bullionists believed that the convertability of paper money into gold was a necessary check on inflation, and that the increasing circulation of paper money would drive gold out of England – and worse, into France, where it could be reshaped into military might. This complexity meant that the Napoleonic wars had distinct economic components, with opponents seeking to destabilize the currencies of their enemies.

The Edinburgh repeatedly returned to discussions of currency and its effect on trade, financial institutions, and government; more than 600 articles from 1803-1830 mention ‘money’ (about the same rate as the Quarterly, but notably less frequently than many periodicals, including, in the 1820s, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine). In its first issue, it offered a distinctly positive and measured review (written by Horner) of Henry Thornton’s Paper Credit, a cautious endorsement of the Restriction Act. Eventually, Horner and Thornton would team up as principal authors of the Bullion Report of 1810-1.

In 1808, responding to Thomas Smith’s ‘Essay on the Theory of Money and Exchange’ and the vagueness with which both Smith and his predecessors have defined money mistakenly as a ‘measure of value’, and insisting this failure leads their analyses astray, the Edinburgh declared that to call money a ‘measure’, is to use that metaphorically; where a ‘pint’ is a ‘measure of water’, it is only metaphorically that ‘a shilling measures a quarter loaf’. This metaphor conceals a most crucial quality of money, namely that – unlike standards of measures such as the pint and the yard – ‘it is itself perpetually subject to variations’ (ER 13:4, 39). After demonstrating the absurdity of considering money as an ‘abstract idea’ (43), the Edinburgh demonstrates, with an amusing narrative, that the inconvenience of barter exchange occurs because of the specificity of commodities: a man with a sheep desires a hatchet, but a sheep is worth 6 hatchets, and he cannot give only a sixth of the sheep, and in any case, the man selling the hatchet ‘does not want to purchase a sheep, but a cloak’. The Edinburgh rehearses a historical imagining by which precious metals are simply a common object of barter and, by social practice, are shaped into recognizable forms – coins – in which the stamp indicates an established quantity of the metal. The conclusion drawn is that ‘coins are mere commodities, subject to the laws which regulate the purchase and sale of all other commodities’ (49).

Yet this understanding of money became complicated as money entered the discourse of contracts, where money was both ‘the standard, by a comparison with which the relative values of commodities is ascertained’ and ‘also the equivalent, by the delivery of a fixed amount of which, the stipulations, in almost all contracts and agreements, may be discharged’. Considering three books that concerned the ‘Pernicious Effects of Degrading the Standard of Money’, the Edinburgh, declaring that making ‘any direct alteration in the terms of a contract’ by the government would be a ‘tyrannical interference with the rights of property that could not be tolerated’, decried a substitute strategy of ‘altering the standard’ and consequently and simultaneously altering the purchase power – the actual determinate by which one agrees to a price – that is ultimately delivered. Demonstrating a strategy of devaluing currency in order to reduce national and royal debt, the Edinburgh notes that the result – the fact that the government and monarchy now must also use the degraded money for purchasing – means that no long-term gain is achieved by resolving debt in this fashion (ER 35:2, 474) and the government’s ability to borrow is curtailed. Thus, the prolonged restriction on paper money meant that the quantity in circulation, held steady by the discipline of the government and the watchful accounting of the public press for the first decade of the Back Restriction Act, gave way to a dramatic rise in the amount of paper money and a corresponding depreciation of its value, thus effectively transforming contracts in favor of debtors as against creditors (478).

The Edinburgh, however, goes on to argue that the return to a gold standard is similarly damaging, although in the opposite direction, forcing debtors to pay a higher value than their loan stipulated. In 1826, the Edinburgh continued to warn against that ‘sudden change in the quantity, and, consequently, in the value of money’ (ER 44:1, 71). A vital component of its promulgation of political economy, the Edinburgh under Jeffrey continued to chart the increasing rise in international money markets as well as to insist on an empirical basis for its understanding of the importance of the rate of monetary circulation as an indicator of economic health.

Mark Schoenfield, Vanderbilt University

Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. 1944. (New York: Beacon Press, 1957).

Laidler, David, ‘The Bullionist Controversy’, in Money, Eds, John Eatwell, Murrey Milgate and Peter Newman. (New York: Macmillan Press, 1989).

William Wilberforce (1759-1833)

leading abolitionist, social reformer, and politician.

WILBERFORCE was born into a wealthy merchant family in Hull and received a BA and MA at St. John’s College at Cambridge, where he became close friends with William Pitt the Younger. He was elected MP for Hull as an independent at the age of twenty one. Four years later, he converted to evangelical Christianity and briefly contemplated renouncing politics for the church, but instead refocused his political efforts on social reform, forming a group within the Parliament known affectionately as ‘The Saints’. Outside Parliament, he allied himself with leading abolitionists such as Thomas Clarkson, Charles Middleton, and Hannah More. He presented his first speech opposing the slave trade on 12 May 1789, and continued to press for the abolition of the slave trade until the bill’s final passage on 23 February 1807. His other political efforts focused on education, prison and capital punishment reform, improvements in working conditions, and moral reform. Wilberforce retired from Parliament due to poor health in 1825 and died on 29 July 1833, three days after learning that Parliament would fully abolish slavery.

The Edinburgh Review frequently came out in support of the abolition of the slave trade against its equally frequent defence, puzzling over ‘the temerity of the slave traders in venturing upon another round, where the odds are so stacked against them’ (ER 8:358). Wilberforce himself contributed a review of one such defence in 1804 (ER 5:209-41).

Brian Robert Wall, IASH, University of Edinburgh


David Brion Davis, ‘The Preservation of English Liberty, I’, in The Antislavery Debate, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

Seymour Drescher, ‘Public Opinion and Parliament in the Abolition of the British Slave Trade’,” in The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People, ed. Stephen Farrell, Melanie Unwin, and James Walvin (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007).

William Hague, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner (London: Harper Press, 2007).

Robert and Samuel Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce by his Sons (London: John Murray, 1838).


Political economy

as it was clarified in the mid-18th century by Adam Smith and David Hume, was the systematic study of the structures of wealth, markets, and finance, especially as they informed individual interactions, social arrangements, governmental power, and international relations. For the Edinburgh, the dissemination of knowledge about economics and its political ramifications was one of its crucial missions.

DURING the early years of the 19th century, political economy had theoretical and applied aspects which transformed both legal and economic practices in the century following Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776). The causes and effects of inflation and national debt; the relationship between the economic aid, in the form of relief to the poor, and population increase (often called the Malthusian controversy); the legal structuring of loans, annuities, taxation, and insurance; and the development of infrastructures of consumer purchasing such as stores and restaurants in crowded cities, and the concomitant rise in elaborate advertisements and theories of desire represent only some of the more salient aspects of economics during the romantic period, which Karl Polanyi identified as the ‘Great Transformation’ when land, money, and labor were reconstituted as commodities. Throughout Jeffrey’s time as editor of the Edinburgh Review, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations remained the touchstone text for Political Economy, but its implications were established not only by the text itself, but by the pamphlets, articles, and books that sought to clarify, modify, and extend it; on any given issue, Smith would be generally adduced by both proponent and opponent as an authority. In an 1820 review on the Evils of Public Ignorance’, the Edinburgh laments the misapplication of ‘laissez faire’ policies: ‘how many people have we heard thus disposing of all nice matters of national polity by crying out, “Adam Smith”’ (ER 34:222).

The Edinburgh understood the dissemination of economic knowledge as among its crucial missions, and further understood the dissemination of knowledge generally as deeply implicated in the production of national wealth and personal well-being. It recognized a dynamic loop between the belief in economic laws and the success of those laws. Thus, by circulating knowledge about economics, the Edinburgh increased the efficacy of its practical effects. Francis Horner, who eventually headed the committee that produced the Bullion Report (1810), realized that ‘knowledge may be considered in the light of a commodity, prepared by a separate profession, and consumed or enjoyed by the community as a luxury’ (Horner 1:96), and, as Jerome Christensen has observed, the Edinburgh ‘commodifies Horner’s epiphany’ and ‘aims to be the medium of exchange’ in the market Horner contemplates (116). Thus, the extension of economic knowledge was implicated in the construction of a market for knowledge itself. In its first issue, the Edinburgh acknowledged the ‘General Diffusion of Knowledge’ as ‘one great cause of the Prosperity of North Britain’ (ER, 1:92) and declared that the knowledge derived from economic disasters such as the South Seas Bubble partially compensated for that disaster.

From the founding of the Edinburgh until Jeffrey’s retirement as editor, more than 180 articles use the phrase ‘political economy’ – four in the first issue, of which three are written by Francis Horner. Horner reviewed Thornton’s book on paper credit in this first issue, John Ramsey McCulloch reviewed Ricardo on Political Economy and Taxation in 1818, and Richard Whately reviewed N.W. Senior’s Introductory Lectures on Political Economy in one of the final issues Jeffrey oversaw. The Edinburgh devoted considerable attention to the behavior of money within markets, and the various ways regulation could manipulate that behavior (see currency and finance). Discussing Senior’s Introductory Lectures, the Edinburgh acknowledges that there ‘are so many crude and mischievous theories afloat, which are dignified with the name of Political Economy, that the science is in no small danger of falling into disrepute’ (ER, 45:170). Under Jeffrey’s guidance, the Edinburgh saw that the way in which political economy was understood was integral to the way in which political economics would function, and that the reliance of markets on bad economic assumptions could have catastrophic results.

The Edinburgh contained two kinds of economic articles. First, there were those that specifically engaged economic theories, and these tended to emphasize monetary policy and the relations of markets, capital, wages, and consumption. Second, there were those articles that explored the specific conditions in which economics figured – considering the effects of a reduction of the duties on wine (July 1824) and coffee (January 1825), for example, and attending to the consequences of foreign trade on English wages. There were reviews of practical matters such as forgery and pauperism, but in these considerations, the reviewers sought to ground their reasoning in both statistical or historical knowledge and a theory of markets that implied a qualified notion of human rationality.

McCulloch, whose first review for the Edinburgh was on Ricardo’s Principle of Political Economy in 1818, became the Review’s primary economic theorist through the 1820s. He published reviews that espoused a hybrid political economy between Ricardo’s insistence on the comparative advantages of individual specialisation and relatively free trade among nations, on the one hand, and, on the other, the earlier position along ‘the lines of Smith’s cost-of-production approach’ (Fontana 76). Thomas Malthus, Jeffrey’s friend and an occasional contributor to the Edinburgh, wrote to a friend in 1821 that the Review ‘has so entirely adopted Mr. Ricardo’s system of Political Economy that it is probably neither you nor I shall be mentioned in it’ (quoted in Fetter 239). Although Malthus was exaggerating and many of the frequent references to him in the 1820s are laudatory, McCulloch was critical of a number of his positions, such as that on the way the accumulation of capital affects buying power and wages (Mar 1824). Although attentive to Malthus’s principle of population, the Edinburgh instituted into economics its theory of genius, noting that no ‘possible limits can be assigned to the powers and resources of genius, nor consequently to the improvement of machinery, and of the skill and industry of the labourer’ (ER 41:13). Thus a notion of intellectual progress, which the Edinburgh took as its own primary social function, was grafted onto Ricardo’s economics, to create a mechanism (or at least its illusion) of inevitable progress.

Mark Schoenfield, Vanderbilt University


Christensen, Jerome, Romanticism at the End of History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

Horner, Francis Memoirs and Correspondence of Francis Horner, M. P. 1843. Ed. Leonard Horner. 2 vols, (London: Murray, 1853).

Fetter, FW, “The Authorship of Economic Articles in the Edinburgh Review, 1802-47” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 61.3:(Jun., 1953) 232-259.

Fontana, Biancamaria. Rethinking the Politics of Commercial Society: The Edinburgh Review, 1802–1832 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).



the practice of charitable donations by private givers to address social needs.

While the word philanthropy became part of the English lexicon in the seventeenth century, it ‘did not become a term of widespread use with the British and American public until the nineteenth century with the emergence of new forms of economic stratification and a new kind of institutional giving’ (Christianson 30-31). The ideological basis of philanthropic giving was an idea of sympathy first articulated by Frances Hutcheson in his Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), in which benevolence is seen as fundamental to moral virtue. David Hume and Adam Smith adapted Hutcheson’s ideas in negotiating the ‘dynamic between self-interest and sympathy in the regulation of civil society’ (Christianson 37). Adherents to philanthropy argued that it addressed social problems that could not be rectified by market forces or government action; its detractors believed that philanthropy threatened core social values – such as thrift, work, and self-sufficiency – by creating a culture of dependency.

In line with a reaction against sentimentalism in the Romantic period, the writers and reviewers in the Edinburgh Review often questioned the role of philanthropy in public discourse – a review of a pro-abolition pamphlet in July 1804, for example, expresses gratitude that it contained ‘none of that sentimental rant and sonorous philanthropy by which the cause of humanity has been so often exposed to ridicule’ (477).

Brian Robert Wall, IASH, University of Edinburgh


Frank Christianson, Philanthropy in British and American Fiction: Dickens, Hawthorne, Eliot and Howells (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007).

Henry Cockeram, The English Dictionarie, or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words (London: Huntington Press, 1623 (republished 1930)).

Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1819)

a collection of fictitious letters reflecting on Scottish culture and characters, written by John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854) in the persona of ‘Peter Morris’, a Welshman on a tour of contemporary Scotland spent chiefly in Edinburgh, with some later parts from Glasgow.

LOCKHART, as one of the moving figures behind Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, was well used to satire and hoaxing, and Peter’s Letters is a frequently ironic, well-informed tour of Scotland’s leading literati and legal and public figures which allows the author (behind the assumed Welsh persona) to comment with straight face on all his subjects, personal friends and colleagues included. The epistolary form is organised in such a way as to allow one major figure or theme to occupy one ‘letter’, and there is much faux-innocent description – of Archibald Alison, who preaches well ‘in spite of his accent, which has a good deal of his country in it’ and of the ‘unaffected simplicity’ of James Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd. It is a mischievous and witty performance sure to please and offend both sides of the political divide in Edinburgh, and a wicked satisfaction will have come to Lockhart from adding a title page claiming to be a ‘second edition’, while it was in fact the first.

Peter Morris’s guide through the Edinburgh sequences of Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk is Lockhart’s alter ego, ‘the nervous, irritable, enthusiastic, sarcastic Will Wastle’ – a reactionary Tory ‘dashing execrations by the dozens upon the Whigs, the Presbyterians, and the Edinburgh Reviewers’ (Peter’s Letters 1:23, 36). The Whig intellectuals associated with the Edinburgh not surprisingly come under attack, though Jeffrey is said to be better than the Review that is paradoxically acknowledged to be characteristically his.

Ian Campbell, University of Edinburgh

Colin McKenzie (1753-1821)

surveyor, military engineer, oriental enthusiast, and East India Company man.

BORN on the Isle of Lewis, the details of McKenzie’s education are uncertain, but he was reputedly a skilled mathematician and had a passion for the Orient. He joined the East India Company’s infantry in 1783 as an ensign before transferring to the engineers, where he distinguished himself in a number of sieges and expeditions, carrying out surveys when not on campaign. McKenzie was an invaluable officer during the war against Tipu Sultan. Contemporaries spoke of his remarkable coolness in battle and he was personally commended by Arthur Wellesley (later Lord Wellington).

After Mysore fell, McKenzie argued the need for a comprehensive survey as a crucial mechanism for efficient governance – by which he meant not just mapping, but also cataloguing and describing the physical, historical, and cultural features of the territory surveyed. Working with William Lambton (whose cartography was more efficient and accurate, but lacked the range and depth of McKenzie’s data), McKenzie surveyed Mysore from 1799 to 1808. He was appointed surveyor-general of Madras in 1810, and surveyor-general of India in 1815. The cultural and religious aspects of his surveys captured his interest most keenly, and McKenzie credited himself with the discovery of a number of subdivisions within Indian religion, including Jainism. He liaised with many native scholars, and brought back thousand of coins, artefacts, inscriptions, and descriptions of the landscapes and cultures he surveyed, published in Asiatic Researches and elsewhere. McKenzie died near Calcutta in 1821.

Elias Greig and William Christie, University of Sydney


had been an independent commonwealth for more than three centuries after the establishment of its Parliament in 930; after that, it was ruled first from Norway and then from Denmark until it established full independence in 1944.

ICELAND remained relatively little known in Britain throughout the eighteenth century, although medieval Icelandic literature attracted the attention of at least some British antiquarians from mid-century on. Most of the information available on the country itself came from translations of works by French and Scandinavian travellers. Sir Joseph Banks led the first British ‘scientific’ expedition to Iceland in 1772, to be followed by John Stanley in 1789, William Hooker in 1809, and Sir George Mackenzie in 1810. Observations by these and other travellers attracted the attention of the Edinburgh literati; in particular, samples and descriptions of Icelandic rocks contributed to the impassioned debates about geology then raging between Huttonians and Wernerians.

The Edinburgh reviewed books on Iceland in 1804 (ER 3:334-43) and 1812 (ER 19:416-35). The earlier article, on a French translation of a survey of Iceland by Eggert Olafsen and Bjarni Povelsen, was mildly sceptical about the value of such a detailed study of a remote, impoverished country and complained about the excessive detail provided by the authors. In contrast, the article on Mackenzie’s expedition enthusiastically welcomed an account of ‘the natural history of a country rendered interesting by the very severity with which nature has treated it’ (ER 19:418) and singled out the observations on geology for particular notice.

Pamela Perkins, University of Manitoba

James Hogg (1770-1835)

poet and novelist of humble background, associated with Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine from its inception, and one of the strongest imaginative writers in Scotland during the lifetime of his friend Sir Walter Scott.

BORN in humble circumstances near Ettrick in the Borders of Scotland, Hogg had little formal education and earned a precarious living as a shepherd – later as a small farmer – and was never far from poverty. Despite this, he acquired enough learning (though never social polish) to achieve wide publication. He published Scottish Pastorals in 1801 and was recruited by Walter Scott to collect ballads for The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1804). Hogg moved to Edinburgh in 1810 to start The Spy magazine, which failed the following year. His epic poem The Queen’s Wake led him to publisher William Blackwood, who would soon launch his Edinburgh Monthly Magazine (later Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine). Blackwood’s then became the primary engine for Hogg’s literary fame, with Hogg contributing over one hundred works and appearing as the character of ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’ in its Noctes Ambrosianae, a rambunctious serial symposium reflecting on all aspects of contemporary social and literary life. Hogg’s character, often the butt of Noctes’ cruel humour, was arguably the most popular of the literary figures represented in the series.

Hogg also published numerous poetry collections and novels, most famously The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), little regarded at the time but now widely recognised as his masterpiece. Here his knowledge of folklore, sensitivity to language, and dramatic and satiric gifts unite in a superb gothic tale of diabolic possession. A quarrel with Blackwood in 1831 sent him to other publishers, but the two reconciled shortly before Blackwood’s death in 1834. Hogg himself died on 21 November 1835.

Hogg’s ‘Epitaphs on Living Characters’, published in the Scots Magazine in June 1810, depicted Francis Jeffrey as ‘Bonaparte the second’: ‘The one kept the monarchs of Europe in awe; | But this to the genius of Europe gave law’. Jeffrey later reciprocated with a complimentary review of Hogg’s The Queen’s Wake in December 1814.

Ian Campbell and Brian Robert Wall, University of Edinburgh



Gillian Hughes, James Hogg: A Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007).

Thomas C. Richardson, “James Hogg and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine: Buying

and Selling the Ettrick Shepherd,” in James Hogg and the Literary Marketplace: Scottish Romanticism and the Working-Class Author, ed. Sharon Alker and Holly Faith Nelson (Surrey: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 185-99.