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The Scottish Enlightenment and the matter of Troy

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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.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-130
JournalJournal of the British Academy
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018

    Research areas

  • Troy, Homer, Scottish Enlightenment , Origins of social sciences, Classicism, Ancients and Moderns

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ID: 251704908