Text analysis of the corpus of English economic works from 1580 to 1720 show a shift away from religious and moral works to the topics of trade, finance, and industry. This was a significant turning point for economic thought. A database of 1,308 authors, 6,149 corporate investors, and 304 trade councilors reveals that a large and increasing proportion of texts were authored by merchants who were deeply embedded in networks of corporate investment but occupied peripheral positions in the networks of committees and councils that formed the state’s economic policy branch. The structure of authors’ networks indicates that new economic arguments were developed by merchants attempting to communicate across the divisions between economic and state spheres -- in effect creating a new type of knowledge in order to bridge an existing cultural hole.
Emily Erikson is an associate professor of sociology at Yale University working on social networks and the development of the institutions of capitalism and democracy. Her award-winning book, Between Monopoly and Free Trade: The English East India Company (Princeton University Press, 2014) shows how an informal social network linking autonomous employees fostered the Company’s long-term success, shedding light on the processes underpinning the emergence of early multi-national firms and the structure of early modern global trade. Her forthcoming book, New Knowledge: The Rise of Economics and Development of the Public Sphere, identifies the forces that stimulated the development of pre-classical economic thought in the seventeenth century. Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, the Annual Review of Sociology, Sociology Theory, and Social Science History, among others.