Did Scottish thinkers invent the modern world? A Debate.

  • David William Allan (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organising a public lecture/debate/seminar


Did Scottish thinkers invent the modern world? A Debate.

The Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century is justly famed as a period of quite remarkable intellectual and cultural achievement. In recent years some have argued that the ideas of the thinkers of that time were also basic to the making of modern western democracy, the capitalist system and much else. The thesis was given a higher public profile in the best - selling volume by the American scholar, Arthur Herman, The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots' Invention of the Modern World (2002). This has become a kind of source book for those Scottish politicians keen to demonstrate how the nation's past glories can act as a platform for the development of an even more prosperous future.

How convincing are these arguments which, after all, run to the very heart of Scotland 's identity, sense of itself and its impact on the world? Are they reliably based on the available evidence or do they rather reflect the exaggerated ethnic conceit of a small stateless nation? These and other questions were discussed by a distinguished panel of leading scholars in a public debate.

The participants were :

Dr Thomas Ahnert - Lecturer in Early Modern Intellectual History, University of Edinburgh
Dr David Allan - Reader in Scottish History, University of St Andrews
Professor Alexander Broadie - FRSE Chair of Logic and Rhetoric, University of Glasgow
Professor Tom Devine - FRSE FBA Sir William Fraser Chair of Scottish History and Palaeography and Director of the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies, University of Edinburgh
Professor Susan Manning - FRSE Grierson Chair of Literature and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh
Professor Christopher Smout - FRSE FBA Historiographer Royal in Scotland
Period24 Feb 2009
Event typeConference
LocationSt Andrews, United KingdomShow on map