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Hume Studies

Volume 40, Issue 2, November 2014

Jia Wei
Pages 169-203

Maritime Trade as the Pivot of Foreign Policy in Hume’s History of Great Britain

This paper examines David Hume’s vision of how maritime trade opened up new strategic prospects and challenges for England in the Stuart age. It shows that his emphasis in the History of England was not simply European, as most Hume scholars have believed, but, more importantly, trans-Atlantic. He maintained that England’s maritime trade in America and the West Indies from the seventeenth century onward tied her fortunes to the opaque and uncertain destiny of imperial politics. This had important implications for the dynamic relationship between Britain and its American colonies as well as for the resulting contest of European powers around the world. This paper shows that maritime trade served as the focal point for Hume in explaining England’s role in the European balance of power. Although some attention has been drawn to this aspect, no systematic study has investigated his Stuart history as an important text for understanding his views on foreign policy. This paper fills the gap by explaining the connections between his views on political economy and foreign policy It shows how he explained the crucial importance of trading interests in the English strategic thinking as well as why the European balance of power was significant for England’s maritime security and national interests.