Enlightenment, 1767 - 1778
It is thought Adam Smith began writing the Wealth of Nations while he was in France. He now returned to Scotland, to his mother’s home in Kirkcaldy, to work on it in earnest. The task was to take him the next nine years, though he spent long periods in London, where he again advised the government on economic matters.
Meanwhile, the ENLIGHTENMENT continued to flourish in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh where a remarkable group of philosophers, scientists, writers and artists lived and worked. Scotland was entering a period of rapid social change as towns prospered and grew, agriculture was transformed by new farming methods and new industries began to emerge. New ideas and ways of thinking were an essential part of this changing world.
In 1776, Smith finally published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The critical response was immediate and enthusiastic. The first edition sold out within six months.
In 1778, Adam Smith was appointed to the post of Commissioner of Customs and Salt Duties for Scotland. This required him to set up home in Edinburgh and he took the lease on Panmure House, a substantial dwelling off the Canongate.
The house had originally been built in 1691, then sold to the Earl of Panmure in 1696. By 1778, it belonged to the Earl of Dalhousie who leased it to Adam Smith. The house was originally a ‘T’ shaped building with its main frontage facing west. It had a large garden and a forecourt, accessed from the Canongate by Panmure Close.
Since Adam Smith’s time, the house has gone through several uses and suffered much change and damage. In 1838, it became part of a metal foundry and the northern part of the house was demolished. After years of neglect, the building was restored in the 1950s to become the Canongate Boys Club.
In 2008, Panmure House was bought by the Edinburgh Business School. Work began to transform it into a world-class centre for education, debate and understanding of current economic and philosophical issues, just as it had been in Adam Smith’s time.