The Scottish Enlightenment and the Matter of Troy

by Colin Kidd

15 Mar 2018
Journal of the British Academy, volume 6 (2018)
https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/006.097

Abstract: The modern world knows the Scottish Enlightenment as the nursery of today’s social sciences, when the outlines of economics, sociology and anthropology first became apparent in the works of Adam Smith and his contemporaries. However, deeper immersion in 18th-century Scottish culture reveals the enduring importance of classical antiquity to intellectuals who were as much late humanists as pioneer social scientists. Indeed, the unexpected fascination of enlightened Scots with the Trojan War and the ancient post-savage society described by Homer opens up new perspectives on Scottish Enlightenment sociology as an offshoot of classical erudition. Moreover, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the institutional embodiment of the Scottish Enlightenment, played a dominant part in the late-18th- and early-19th-century debate about the location of Troy.


Keywords: Troy, Homer, Scottish Enlightenment, origins of social sciences, classicism, Ancients and Moderns


Raleigh Lecture on History, read 7 November 2017


Sign up to our email newsletters