Thursday, 2 December 2010

Lecture 6 Summary

Our latest HCJ seminar involved alot of discussing how to eat babies, which was a refreshing change of scenery. We looked at two passages in detail this week. The first, 'Of The Different Progress Of Opulence In Different Nations' by Adam Smith (1723-1790) studies the relationship of commerce between towns and countries.

Smith begins by highlighting the fact that towns are heavily reliant. Countries supply the town with food and material for manufacture, but Smith identifies this as only a minor issue. He writes, "We must not, however [...] imagine that the gain of the town is the loss of the country" The towns are able to produce and sell on materials issued from the country, which is advantageous to both parties. The writer also goes on to add: "The inhabitants of the town and those of the country are mutually the servants of one another". Smith repeatedly highlights this relationship, also picking up on the importance of labourers. He states that the loss of  "assistance of some artificers" would result in "inconvenience" and "interruption". Labourers are in need of assistance to one another, meaning they naturally settle together to form small towns and villages.

Commerce is a key theme to the passage and Smith goes into some detail as to the state of North America's economy. At the time of writing, North America was still developing and was not as heavily involved with trading as other nations. In other words, there was more of a focus on personal production than selling produce to others. According to Smith, a growing society is first directed towards agriculture, then to 'manufacturs' and finally to foreign trade. Egypt and China in particular are identified as nations that attained 'high degrees of opulence'. Smith explores the relationship between war and economical growth, writing that conflict leads to a significant drop in the quality of cultivation. For example, the German and Scythian nations overran Western provinces of the Roman Empire, which left towns deserted and the country uncultivated. Inevitably, this led to poverty.

Smith discusses how the increase of manufacturing towns led to improvement and cultivation of countries to which they belonged in. He starts by stating that the wealth acquired meant poor land could be purchased, cultivated and improved. Obviously, regenerating land to give it money-making potential was useful to both the towns and the country in an economical sense.

The second piece, 'A Modest Proposal' by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is a satirical essay that was actually published anonymously in 1729. The fact that Swift calls his proposal 'modest' (when it's clearly not!) summaries the tone of the passage well. At the time of writing, Ireland was stuck in heavy poverty, which had a massive impact on the quality of life of the lower classes. Swift's use of 'we' and 'our' makes the audience feel involved with the proposal.

Swift begins by stating that the sight of poverty actually upsets him, leading readers into thinking his proposal will have the poverty-stricken families at heart. He writes: " It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms" Swift goes on to propose that the children be eaten, which comes as a surprise as Swift sounds genuinely concerned over their welfare at the beginning of the passage.

Swift highlights the advantages to his proposal:

 1) "It would greatly lessen the numbers of papists (catholics) with whom we are yearly overrun" - Swift targets the Catholics due the fact they tended to have large families. He also goes on to refer to them as 'our most dangerous enemies'. At the time, there was significant social hatred for Catholics.

 2) "The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own"

 3) "The money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture"

4) "The constant breeders, beside the gain of 8 shillings sterling per annum by the sale of their childrens, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the 1st year"

 5) "This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns"

6) "It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babies, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense"

If anybody can find a good use for the beggars children, Swift states, then they should be respected and worshipped. Swift goes into detail over the figures concerned with his proposal. He says that of the 120,000 Irish children born every year, 20,000 should be kept for breeding (1/4 of these are male) and the remaining 100,000 should be fattened and sold on.


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