In spite of the time period implied in her subtitle, Ann Thomson’s book covers debates about the materiality of the soul from 1650 to the early 19th century. She deals with a vast range of thinkers – primarily in England and France, but also in the Netherlands.
This important work provides the first informed, well-researched and highly nuanced account of the fortunes of ‘occult’ thought and practice in England from the middle decades of the 17th century to its demise at the end of the 18th century.
Post-reformation English Catholicism continues to be a flourishing and popular field of enquiry. In recent years this upsurge of interest has been paralleled by an increasing body of work on early modern ‘superstition’ and popular religion.
Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment is an unusual work. Little more than an extended essay, its brevity and lucidity belie the complexity and force of its central thesis. Whilst there is no doubt that the book represents an important historiographical intervention, it is rather harder to explain why or where it does so.
This volume arrives with high praise. The book ‘[d]eserves to become another classic’, opines Peter Burke at the top of the front cover. It ‘[c]ompletely overhauls our view’, observes Ronald Hutton somewhat further down. The work itself is not shy of ambition either. Both the title—The Decline of Magic—and the subtitle—Britain in the Enlightenment—promise sweeping panoramas.