By Eugene Heath, Vincenzo Merolle
Expanding numbers of students have famous Ferguson's contribution to Enlightenment pondering, yet no collections of scholarly essays were dedicated to him. during this, the 1st of 2 comparable monographs, essays diversity throughout all of Ferguson's works to enquire his engagement with modern occasions and his contributions to our figuring out of background and human motion. specific one of the prime figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Ferguson observed eighteenth-century revolutions, the yankee and the French. On those and on many different very important modern matters, the perspectives he expressed contributed to shaping public opinion. yet his paintings the following additionally extends again to Roman occasions, approximately which he drew comparisons with the society of his day. As proven in those essays, he not just provided his ideas on and defined historical past, he investigated the character of historical past itself.
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Extra info for Adam Ferguson: History, Progress and Human Nature (The Enlightenment World: Political and Intellectual History of the Long Eighteenth Century)
When the books were returned the transactions were scored out:19 for example, ‘Bord Gesneri Thesaurus 4 Vols in 2 Tom folio & Philosophical Transactions abridged by Lowthrop 3Vs4to’. 21 In October, while preparing for his class and working on An Essay on the History of Civil Society, he borrowed all five volumes of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives in both English and Latin, an early indication of his interest in Roman history. The next month, he took George Berkeley’s Treatise [concerning] the Principles of Human Knowledge, [wherein the chief Causes of Error and Difficulty in the Sciences with the Grounds of Scepticism, Atheism, and Irreligion, are inquired into], Part I (1710).
Indeed, the complete absence of explicit internal references to local conditions is in need of further explanation because it makes the Essay so unusual among the leading historical texts of the Scottish Enlightenment. It is also puzzling because Ferguson’s interests were so obviously related directly to the country in which he was writing and with whose vital interests, whether as a scholar, a teacher, or a propagandist and public campaigner, he was demonstrably so much concerned. After all, as we have seen, the Essay was certainly the product of distinctively Scottish intellectual traditions; moreover, it plainly addressed problems and questions that Scotland’s social, economic and political development – as these were understood by Ferguson and his close colleagues and friends among the Edinburgh intelligentsia – were at that very time making even more pertinent.
A second aspect of the historiographical heritage by which Ferguson, like his Enlightenment colleagues, could hardly fail to be influenced, was again the product of Scotland’s distinctive cultural development. For the complex interweaving of the influences of the Renaissance and the Reformation had served to create a tradition of historical writing in which essentially moralistic concerns enjoyed particular prominence. 19 At one extreme this was displayed in John Knox’s own Historie of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland (1644), one of the most partisan works of Protestant historiography ever penned.