Smith and Glasgow today

Since Adam Smith's time at Glasgow, scholars have continued to explore the intellectual ethos and spirit of his work.

The University of Glasgow is a major centre for the study of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, and holds many valuable artefacts connected with Smith.

Glasgow as a home of Adam Smith Studies

The University of Glasgow is a major centre for the study of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment. Beginning in the 19th century with the work of James Bonar, a graduate of the University and distinguished political economist and civil servant, the University developed a tradition of research on Adam Smith and his library.

WR Scott, Professor of Political Economy, published the first modern biography of Smith focussing on his time at Glasgow. Adam Smith as student and professor explores the many archival traces of Smith’s time in Glasgow and shows his contribution to the life of the University.

For 200th anniversary of the publication of the Wealth of Nations in 1976 a team of University of Glasgow scholars edited the definitive scholarly edition of Smith's works, the Glasgow Edition, published by Oxford University Press from 1976 onwards.

Among the Glasgow scholars involved were:

The University of Glasgow continues this tradition of scholarship on Adam Smith. Other notable Smithian scholars at Glasgow include:

  • Alexander Broadie, author of A History of Scottish Philosophy
  • TD Campbell, who wrote the first modern study of The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • Christopher J Berry, who pioneered work on Adam Smith and Social Theory

The University regularly hosts scholars who come to Glasgow to research Smith and his ideas. It held major academic celebrations of Smith in 1976 for the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Wealth of Nations, and in 2009 for the 250th anniversary of The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

In 2023 the University hosted the Smith's Library Today and in Future workshop focused on marginalia in the books used by Smith.

The University hosted the annual meeting of the International Adam Smith Society in 2015 and in 2023 will become home to its scholarly journal the Adam Smith Review.

Glasgow University is home to the Adam Smith Business School, focused on creating inspiring leaders, researchers and professionals whose research and relations with industry have real impact, influencing organisations as they develop and grow globally. In 2023 the Adam Smith Business School moved into a new £115 million building.

Professor Sayantan Ghosal

Professor Sayantan Ghosal, Adam Smith Chair in Political Economy, discusses the legacy of Adam Smith and makes the link between Smith’s work and his own.

Professor Kathleen Riach

Professor in Organisational Studies, Kathleen Riach, talks about Smith’s work and her research.

Adam Smith artefacts

A variety of Smithian artefacts have their home at Glasgow University.

  • The 'Tassie Medallions' include a portrait of Adam Smith, which is located in the Hunterian Gallery. There's more information on the Hunterian Gallery website.
  • A marble statue of Adam Smith created by German sculptor Hans Gasser around 1867 is located just off the cloisters in the University’s main building.

The University Library Special Collections also holds a variety of early editions of his work, as well as notes and letters written to and from Adam Smith. These include:

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Sp Coll Mu40-d.10 London: 1759

The first edition of Adam Smith's first book, written while he was Professor of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow. This is a presentation copy from Adam Smith to Henry Home, Lord Kames. 

Métaphysique de l'âmeouThéorie des sentimens moraux

Sp Coll RB 3834-3835 Paris: 1764

The first edition of the Theory into French, translated by Marc-Antoine Eidous, who had previously translated Hutcheson’s Inquiry into Beauty and Virtue. 

Wealth of Nations

Sp Coll Mu6-y.20-21 (vol. 1 only on display) London: 1776 22

The first edition of Smith’s classic work. Published in 1776, this was the first text to tackle economic theory in a clear historical narrative. The library holds several editions of this work, including a copy of the fourth edition that belonged to the poet, Robert Burns.

Juris Prudence or Notes from the lectures on justice, police, revenue, and arms delivered in the University of Glasgow by Adam Smith

Sp Coll MS Gen. 109 Manuscript: 1766

This text is a fair copy (made by a clerk), of a student’s notes of Smith’s lectures at Glasgow. There is evidence that the lectures on jurisprudence from which the original notes were taken were delivered in the academic year 1762-3 or in that portion of the session 1763-4 which preceded Smith’s departure from Glasgow.

The manuscript was published in 1896 with an introduction by Edwin Cannan. He demonstrated that the lectures contain much of the material later used in the Wealth of Nations