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Selling plutology: correspondence relating to the failure of Australia's first economics text


William Edward Hearn’s Plutology was printed in Melbourne by Wilson and Mackinnon in 1863 and then bound and distributed in Melbourne in the same year through the publishing house of George Robertson and in London in 1864 through the publishing house of Macmillan and Co. Historians of economic thought have correctly portrayed this book as one of the most important economic tracts to appear in the Australian colonies during the nineteenth century. Admittedly many of these same historical authorities have followed the lead of Hearn’s most important and meticulous biographer, J.A. La Nauze (1949), in questioning the originality of many of the doctrines contained in Plutology, but at no time do they explicitly qualify the received view that this book was one of Australia’s most important contributions to the field of political economy during the Victorian age (Copland 1935:9; Hutchison 1953:64; Blainey 1957:49-1; Green 1961:321; La Nauze 1972; Groenewegen and McFarlane 1990:2,51).1



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