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Review: [untitled] Author(s): Arthur H.

Williamson Reviewed work(s): Virtue, Learning, and the Scottish Enlightenment: Ideas of Scholarship in Early Modern History by David Allan Source: The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Sep., 1995), pp. 700-703 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: Accessed: 20/05/2009 06:59
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pamphlets and then summarizedthem in what he candidly describes as "a straightforward, often literal fashion rather than subjecting them to deconstructionist, (p. reductionist,imagist or symbolic methods of interpretation" xiii). He takes on not just historical scholars but also literarycritics. He is probablyright when he suggests that this material was read much more widely by contemporariesthan the more sophisticated theological and political material. Nonetheless, while it is helpful to know a little more about how popularbeliefs were then as now deeply conservative, being reminded of that fact is not especially helpful as we strive to understandwhy change neverthelessdoes take place. It is likely thata close examinationof these kinds of sources from the seventeenth century onward would demonstrate the innate conservatismof theirreadership.Nonetheless, the world keeps changing, and attitudes and towardpolitical and divine authority,political representation, many other subjects change with it. There must be something going on somewhere that escapes the attentionof the tabloids and their forebearsand to which historiansrightly pay some mind.

Universityof Toronto Virtue, Learning, and the Scottish Enlightenment: Ideas of Scholarship in Early Modern History. By David Allan. Edinburgh:EdinburghUniversity Press, 1993; distributedin the United States by Columbia University Press, New York. Pp. viii + 276. $69.00 (cloth); $25.00 (paper). Well over a century ago it became a commonplace to claim that the Reformation and breatheda spiritcompletely alien to the Enlightenment bore no connection,beyond hostility, to the great intellectual events of the eighteenth century-a view made canonical by Ernst Cassirer in 1932, though well established by the mid-nineteenth century. Nowhere has this perception been less plausible than with regard to the And yet nowhereis it more vehementlyinsisted upon. At least Scottish Enlightenment. since Henry Buckle, Scottish cultural achievements in the eighteenth century have been portrayedas the result of the kingdom's happy escape from its execrable past of the previous two centuries, a past characterizedby Calvinism, bigotry, and clerical repression. Taken to its logical extreme-perhaps most visibly in the work of H. R. Trevor-Roper-this anti-Protestantthesis detaches the Scottish Enlightenmentfrom Scotland and insists that the two have precious little to do with one another. At present such deeply held assumptionscontinue to underlie the work of a great many historiansof the period, including that of N. T. Phillipson and John Robertson, among numerous others. Perhaps surprisingly,the positivist methods of nationalist historianslike John Fergusonhave downplayedthe significance (and Scottishness) of Scotland's Enlightenmentand thereby confirmed rather than confuted conventional wisdom. Portrayedas deriving from English and continentalstyles of thought and as involving but a handful of giants, the Scottish Enlightenment has found itself decontextualized on all sides. Even historians deeply immersed in the entire early modern period, like T. C. Smout and the late Gordon Donaldson, have approached these events gingerly and with considerable hesitation. Still more tellingly for the problemof context, AlexanderBroadie's recent and quite unique study of what he has called the Scottish traditionin philosophy finds anticipationsof the Enlightenmentin

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the late Middle Ages, while quite specifically dissociating such thought from the Renaissance and Reformation. David Allan's important book seeks nothing less than to explode this deeply entrenched, almost reflexive approach to the eighteenth century. For Allan, the Enlightenmentis the culmination of Scotland's Calvinist experience, not a radical departurefrom it. The axial period, he argues, is the sixteenth century,when Scottish intellectuals synthesized humanist methods and assumptions with the objectives of Calvinist reform.The signal result was a form of historical scholarshipthat made the Reformation and its purposes intelligible by locating them within developmental processes. At once intensely moralistic and militantly public-minded, the new scholarshipsought generally to instill civic virtue and, specifically, to educate a social leadership. Although Scottish scholarship drew on and reassembled medieval materials, its critical methods and ambivalence toward the past gave it a present focus, and, Allan notes, only after the mid-seventeenthcentury did a Calvinist vision of the full course of Scottish history actually emerge. Allan briefly notices the apocalypticexpectations of the Scottish Reformationbut stresses their "recrudescence"after 1650 in forms emphasizing divine providence and higher purposes not readily perceived by human reason. The new emphasis on providentialismand Stoicism visibly derived from the political disastersof the latercentury,and while these increasinglysomberattitudesdid not displace altogetherthe earlierand more optimistic integrationof Calvin and Cato, they clearly qualifiedit. While in no way leading to quietism and withdrawal,evident historicalcausationand the efficacy of humanwill in society receded from their former persuasiveness. All of these elements and the tensions among them, Allan maintains,were absorbed into the changed circumstancesof the early eighteenth century. In this more secure, more prosperous, and less conflicted environment, Scottish scholarship became increasingly articulate, elaborate, and diverse in its themes, but not fundamentally different in its root character. Despite a new tone and, often enough, by 1740 self-serving triumphalistillusions, it remainedthe same project with the same social purposes. Only its context had changed. Neither the focus on "experience"in history nor on "conjecture"constitutedreal departuresfrom earlier attitudes,while the new science and the new philosophy did not confront (or contributeto) Scottish scholarly traditions. If there now emerged an unprecedented preoccupation with material conditions and their social consequences, these grew directly out of long-established moralistic concerns reaching back to Hector Boece and George Buchanan in the sixteenth century. The new environment eventually ensured that the discussion of mannersand jurisprudencebecame enriched with economics and protosociology, but the form of the inquiry and its intentions remained strikingly continuous. Not surprisingly,the new material categories long continued to be descriptive and even ratherthancausal. Even the triumphalist repudiationof earlierlearning,itself hortatory far from universal,adopteda voice startlinglysimilarto that of its Calvinist forebears: fathersof the Scottish Reformationsuch as John Knox and RobertPont, after all, bore utterly analogous contempt for Scotland's recent and dark past. Most striking is the eighteenth-centuryscholars' continuing moral and didactic purpose,their confidence in the applicationsof historicallearning,their civic urgency, their powerful engagement rather than dispassionate reflection. Humanist orators, Calvinist preachers, Enlightened historians all comprised similar social figures participatingin a common tradition.The transitionfrom David Hume of Godscroft, circa 1556-1631, to theDavid Hume, 1711-76, was less a matterof purposethan of


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power: in the eighteenth-century circumstances, with the political elites drawn increasingly away to London, the Scottish scholars themselves assumed the social leadershipwith which they had so long been exercised. The house of intellect, Allan seems to suggest, has rarely if ever occupied a position as compelling and powerful. But it did not last long. By 1770, Allan argues, their confidence in civic virtue and radical humanism was manifestly in decline. Increasingly concerned with the unintended consequences of political action and the essential irrationality of social outcomes, Scottish intellectuals found themselves drawnto providentialismand Stoic antirationalism. This, Allan suggests, is the true context for Adam Smith's "invisible hand" and, more generally,for the liberal utopia's supplantingof its republicanrival. Allan sees a close relationshipbetween orthodox causality and the ultimately blind world of passion and interest, and he invites his readersto imagine the development and demise of the Enlightenmentas the working out of the deep tensions within the Calvinist and humanist traditions from which it arose. Under a range of late eighteenth-century pressures-social and political fragmentation,French and American radicalism,London-basedreaction, the new industrialization-antirationalismin the humansciences seemed increasinglypersuasive,and yet nothing more thoroughly impeachedthese intellectuals'social statusand any programof social improvement.In the end the Scottish Enlightenment fractured before philosophical radicalism and Burkean conservatism, with perhaps Whig historiography emerging as Calvinist providentialism's final resting place. By the early nineteenth century the Scottish intellect experienceda failure of nerve-in part manifestedby the rise of a simplistic patriotismand a polite anglophobia-that would render Scottish culture increasingly provincialand derivative.It was a failureof nerve,Allan seems to suggest, from which Scotland has yet to recover. In at least broad terms Allan's thesis is simply unassailable, and by almost any standarda book like this one has been long, long overdue. However, it is not without problemsand lacunaeof considerablemoment.Allan appearsdistinctly uncomfortable with the Scottish apocalypse. This idea, so central to the sixteenth century and, indirectly,to the modem world, strikes him as simply grim, violent, paranoid(pp. 31, 44, 53, 203). He sees none of its creative power whereby Scots could imagine qualitative change in time and history. Later seventeenth-centuryprovidentialismis The real measureof the Calvinist thus much less a recrudescencethan an attenuation. apocalypse is the mid-seventeenth-century Scottish Revolution where the vocabulary of civic virtue surely reached an unduplicatedapex: one encountersin the registersof the Committee of Estates during the 1640s unending reference to the "publict interest,"the "publictaccount,"the "publictwelfare."Perhapsonly in Scotlandcould policies be enacted in the name of the public interest and thereaftersomehow find confirmationin the name of the king. More important,apocalypticism-so integralto the foundationsof Scottish culture that not even such resolute classicists as Buchanan and Hume of Godscroft proved fully immune to its power-is severely discontinuouswith the Enlightenment.But the conclusion will likely turn out to be less the rejection of the apocalypse than its transvaluation reformulation. and The divide consequentlywill almost certainlyprove less severe than might initially appear.But no serious discussion of the period dare ignore the issue, for to do so will barely do other than confirm Buckle's Victorian disquiet. Still other potential problems abound in imagining the Enlightened heirs to Scotland's Renaissance and Reformation: the role of the covenant, anticlericalism (perhapsthe apparentlyearly role of the clergy within such problematicventures as

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freemasonry,in stark contrast to both Protestantand Counter-ReformedFrance, is and relevanthere), and the long-standingScottish concern with the threatof barbarism the preconditions of civilization. These are lines of inquiry that deeply inform the textures of the early modern Scottish experience. Yet none of them detractsfrom Allan's magisterialachievement.He has earnedour unqualifiedapplause.Still, one comes away from this volume possibly less amazedby its courage or even impressed by its insight than wondering about the ideological purchasethat so prolonged such militant and determinedmisconceptions. Ultimately, any de-Calvinizationof the Scottish past-whether in the name of Catholicismor any other contemporaryconservatism-must inherentlymisrepresentit.

California State University,Sacramento Riot, Risings, and Revolution: Governance and Violence in Eighteenth-Century England. By Ian Gilmour. London: Pimlico, 1993. Pp. viii + 504. $19.95. This is a book by an unusualauthor.A politician who is willing to put in the research necessary to write a serious history book, and write it well, is a rare bird nowadays. Moreover, because Sir Ian Gilmour (a member of the first Thatcher cabinet) is quintessentiallyone of Britain'sruling elite, he has a differentperspective than most academic authors. Even the one-nation ConservatismGilmour espouses adds to his distinctiveness,for it echoes the code of his spiritualforebears:the paternalisticsquires whose governance of eighteenth-century England is his subject. The book is divided into three parts. The first, "legitimacy in dispute," deals with 1660-1760 and looks at the major convulsions of the English body politic. Hence chapterson the Glorious Revolution, the Sacheverell riots, the Excise Crisis, and the Jacobite rebellions. The second is thematic and deals with perennial confrontations between rulersand ruledin eighteenth-century England-food riots, press gangs, game laws, and so on-but also considers the roles of the law and the army as engines of social control.Thereis also a thought-provoking chapteron the significanceof dueling. The final section, "Avoidance of Revolution," seeks to explain how, despite the convulsions of the late eighteenth century,England's elite never faced a substantive plebeian challenge to their authority. What emerges from Gilmour's analysis is a familiarpicture. England'srulers were essentially moderate in their use of state power (i.e., state violence). Thus they cheerfully looted the public coffers and selfishly served their own class interests but, in general, were always careful to obey the law even when it hamperedthe pursuitof their own advantage.Most importantof all, they ensuredthe middle classes could get on with makingmoney while seeing to it thatthe poor did not starve.The elite was also united in its estimate of the virtues of the status quo and its own righteousness.Hence it could compromisewith food rioters,naval mutineers,and strikerswithoutbecoming neurotic. Conversely,restrainedprotest by the lower orders usually producedresults, which reinforced their acceptance of the powers that were. Governors and governed worked throughviolence, but both sides sought to keep it controlled violence. What is immediately strikingabout Gilmour's depiction of the violent dynamics of relations between rulers and ruled is its alignment with the Marxist historiographic canon. And, indeed, his notes reveal his debt to scholars such as EdwardP. Thompson