The Rise (and fall?) of the Scottish Enlightenment

Alexander Broadie

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199563692
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

The Rise (and fall?) of the Scottish Enlightenment

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The eighteenth-century cultural movement known as the European Enlightenment contained a specifically Scottish Enlightenment that was recognized as a powerhouse of ideas in fields as diverse as philosophy, political economy, physics, chemistry, and geology. This article focuses on the Scottish Enlightenment. After identifying some of the luminaries (or ‘literati’) of the Scottish Enlightenment, it gives a brief account of what it is that makes something an ‘Enlightenment’. First, the people. They included philosophers such as Francis Hutcheson and David Hume, political economists such as Adam Smith and Sir James Steuart, mathematicians such as Colin Maclaurin and Matthew Stewart, and the geologist James Hutton. It has been held by some that the 1707 Union of Scotland and England is a major element in the explanation of how Scotland came to have an Enlightenment. The article also considers the intellectual life of pre-Enlightenment Scotland, some of the writings that emanated from the Scottish Enlightenment itself, and the question of when the Scottish Enlightenment ended.

Keywords: Scotland; Enlightenment; England; intellectual life; philosophy; geology; chemistry; physics; political economy; Union

Article.  7918 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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