Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Cameralist Ideas in Enlightened Reformism in Portugal: The Diplomat Rodrigo de Souza Coutinho and His Circuits of Intellectual Exchange

Cunha Alexandre, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

This paper deals with the importance of diplomats as agents in the transfer of cameralist ideas in the eighteenth century. Souza Coutinho, a diplomatic envoy to the House of Savoy in Italy and later an important minister of the Portuguese state, is a central name in the study of enlightened reformism in Portugal. This paper departs from the typical emphasis on Smith’s influence on Souza Coutinho, instead drawing attention to his long engagement in the intellectual environment of Italy. His efforts to collect ideas and practices from diverse parts of Europe for practical implementation served as a mechanism for the transfer and adaptation of cameralist techniques as part of administrative reforms underway in Portugal. This paper evidences the practical edge to the adaption of cameralist thought to Portuguese administrative practice, one borne from eclectic recourse to competing theoretical models. [Paper submitted as part of the session “Reconsidering Economic Thought during the Enlightenment: Cameralism and Political Economy”, proposed by Ere Nokkala and Nicholas B. Miller]

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Keywords: Cameralism, International Dissemination of Economic Ideas, Enlightened Reformism, Portugal, Italy

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