Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Anderson, Adam (1692?-1765)
ANDERSON, ADAM (1692?–1765), the historian of commerce, was probably a native of Aberdeen, and born about 1692. He was for forty years, if not longer, a clerk in the South Sea House. In a letter from him (Add. MS. 6860, fol. 4), dated 1 Feb. 1759, to his friend Andrew Mitchell, an Aberdeen man, afterwards English resident at Berlin, he complains of inadequate promotion in the South Sea House, and expresses a desire to obtain ‘a small sinecure or place which might be supplied by deputation to enable me to wear out my few years to come with a little more comfort.’ It is, however, stated in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (liii. 41), with reference to his position in the South Sea House, that he ‘at length arrived to his acme there, being appointed chief clerk of the Stock and New Annuities there till his death.’ According to the same authority he was one of the trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia, and a member of the court of assistants of the Scottish Corporation of London. His name also appears (Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ii. 119) in the list of trustees to carry out an act of Queen Anne's for the establishment of parochial libraries at home and in the colonies. In person he is described as having been ‘tall and graceful,’ and he was twice married. He died at Clerkenwell 10 Jan. 1765.
In the year preceding his death appeared his great and only work, bearing the title, ‘An Historical and Chronological Deduction of the Origin of Commerce from the earliest accounts to the present time, containing an History of the great Commercial Interests of the British Empire. To which is prefixed an Introduction exhibiting a View of the ancient and modern State of Europe; of the Importance of our Colonies and of the Commerce, Shipping, Manufactures, Fisheries, &c., of Great Britain and Ireland, and their influence on the Landed Interest, with an Appendix containing the Modern Politico-Commercial Geography of the several Countries of Europe’ (London, 2 vols., fol. 1764). Coming down from the earliest times to the year 1762, Anderson's work is a monument of stupendous industry. Composed in the form of annals, it is not merely a record of commercial progress and colonial enterprise, but a history of the political, industrial, and social development of all civilised countries, and especially of Great Britain and Ireland. Abstracts of all treaties, acts of parliament, and pamphlets in any way bearing on commerce or kindred matters, are added, together with statistical accounts of the national finances, of prices, currency, and population. The early portions of the work are untrustworthy, but Macpherson attached sufficient value to its chapters from 1492 onwards to reproduce them in his ‘Annals of Commerce.’ In the introduction to his work Anderson showed himself in advance of his time, and exposed several of the fallacies of the mercantile system. He condemned industrial monopolies, and advocated the naturalisation of foreign protestants, and a uniformity of weights, measures, and coinage for all the nations of Christendom.
[Notice in Gentleman's Magazine, liii. 41–2 (reproduced in Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ix. 491); Anderson's work, editions of 1764 and 1787; Preface to Macpherson's Annals of Commerce (1805).]