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 is a book about two well-known dynastic verse histories commissioned by Henry II, the Roman de Rou by Wace and the Chronique des ducs de Normandie by Benoît de Sainte-Maure.
John Dee is a name that often conjures up images of shady spells muttered in dark rooms with bubbling potions, but the exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians, titled Scholar, Courtier, Magician: the Lost Library of John Dee seeks to offer a view of Dee as an articulate, extremely well-read, educated man.
Karen Baston’s book is more than a revision of her Ph.D. It moves significantly beyond her thesis to open up fascinating new perspectives on the neglected subject of the place of the Scottish legal profession in Scottish public culture during the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.
In what was presumably a formative period for Stefan Collini (born in 1947) in the late 1960s, Perry Anderson published a powerful diatribe against English letters for its imperviousness to the great sweep of 20th-century social thought from Marx through Weber, Durkheim and Pareto onwards.(1) Historians were indentured to facts and sources and an impossible ideal of ac
So often, intellectual history is about inheritances. Historians study what is passed down from one age to the next. This has often led to the problem that we tend to focus on what is more familiar, engaging, or at least recognisable, and leads us to ask: why study that which has not left an inheritance?
A. C. Grayling's latest book claims that the modern mind emerged from a series of events which took place, and ideas which materialised, in the 17th century. The Age of Genius argues that the forces of democracy, secularism, enlightenment and science triumphed at this time over divine-right monarchy, religious faith, ignorance and tradition.
In 2017, many people around the world either celebrated or lamented the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. According to the standard narrative, on 31 October 1517, a young German monk named Martin Lütter nailed a set of theological theses for debate upon the door of the castle church in Wittenberg.
For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.
Every mode of writing history has its attendant dangers. The problem with so much conventional political and religious history is that it is an attempt to explain what actually happened. This seems sensible enough, of course, but it inevitably privileges the ways in which the successful historical actors valued their actions, as well as almost inevitably concentrating on an elite.