The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, is a careful, thorough, and brilliant criticism of the mercantile system that governed economic policy in Great Britain during Smith's life. Smith charts the evolution of mercantile principles from the fall of Rome, through feudal times, and into the age of commerce in which he was born.
Well-educated and relatively well-traveled, Smith was able to observe and learn from a number of trades. He also watched as poverty in Europe motivated many of the desperately poor to emigrate to the New World. The Wealth of Nations blends sound observations of the market with elements of moral philosophy and policy recommendations in order to create not just a criticism of mercantilism, but a rich economics text that has held up remarkably well through the centuries.