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Mysticism, reason and the shape of early Enlightenment Scotland

Jenkins, Paul D. (2010) Mysticism, reason and the shape of early Enlightenment Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The study investigates the late seventeenth century origins of the Scottish Enlightenment, and it offers a timely reassessment of both the coherence and concept of the 'early Enlightenment'. Traditionally maligned as the most contemptible chapter in the nation's history, seventeenth-century Scotland has, until very recently, been noted only for its religious fanaticism, political corruption, and intellectual sterility. Most recent work on Scotland during this period represents a revisionist effort to do belated justice to the history of Scotland at that time by stressing its pivotal importance to the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment. While these studies are important and have shed much light on this long misunderstood period, they tend to evaluate it in a progressivist fashion, based on the extent to which it successfully anticipated or contributed to the rational achievements and secularized outlook of the eighteenth century. The aims of this project are twofold: to painstakingly re-contextualise the controversies of the period; and to critique and move to the foreground important questions of tone and the progressivist focus, or orientation of studies of early Enlightenment Scotland. It does this by closely examining two of the trends most commonly linked to the rise of European Enlightenment: (1) the declining significance of demonic agency and the crime of witchcraft, as well as its isomorphic cousin, heresy; and (2) the corresponding rise of scepticism, rationalism and toleration. According to these two measures of Enlightenment, it is argued, Scotland's early transition from a traditional 'persecuting society' to a tolerant 'enlightened' one was not as decisive or as progressive as most revisionist historians claim. Drawing upon evidence from Scotland, England and Continental Europe this study opens new, much needed, lines of debate regarding the late seventeenth-century roots of the Scottish Enlightenment, by demonstrating the important, sophisticated roles conservative and mystical religious opinion played in shaping the intellectual character of early Enlightenment Scotland.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Kidd, Prof. Colin C. and Cowan, Prof. Edward J.
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2335
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:53
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2335

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