By Eugene Heath, Vincenzo Merolle
Expanding numbers of students have famous Ferguson's contribution to Enlightenment considering, 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 realizing of historical past and human motion. particular one of the major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Ferguson observed eighteenth-century revolutions, the yankee and the French. On those and on many different very important modern topics, the perspectives he expressed contributed to shaping public opinion. yet his paintings the following additionally extends again to Roman instances, approximately which he drew comparisons with the society of his day. As proven in those essays, he not just provided his suggestions on and defined heritage, he investigated the character of background itself.
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Additional resources for Adam Ferguson: History, Progress and Human Nature (The Enlightenment World: Political and Intellectual History of the Long Eighteenth Century)
35 Ferguson’s words may speak explicitly of no contemporary community in particular. But their potential application in Edinburgh and London in 1767 could not have been clearer to his first readers. It was Britain, and especially Scotland, that was in danger of becoming a nation of ‘mere’ clerks and accountants; that had lost the capacity to form and to reward courageous military leaders; that now lacked a sufficient number of far-sighted legislators. 36 Other dimensions to modernity, again with special pertinence to Scottish conditions in the 1760s and about which Ferguson seems to have been especially exercised, also figure prominently in the Essay’s careful anatomization of progress.
The result was that a linked series of concerns became a particular focus of debate for those contemporaries who, like Ferguson (indeed like most subsequent historians of the period), perceived that the Treaty of Union, and the economic and social transformation of Scotland that had followed from that constitutional revolution, had together accelerated the rate of change and helped bring about a process of rapid Scottish modernization. 30 Most obviously, the Essay’s concern for modernity was the source of its fascination with progress as the process by which present circumstances had apparently come about.
Even more importantly, in 1759, the very year that Ferguson regaled his friends with a draft ‘Treatise on Refinement’ – the embryonic work from which the Essay would be born eight years later – the Scotichronicon was finally published in its entirety by Walter Goodall, long-standing sub-librarian at the Advocates’ Library, the great Edinburgh research institution by which in that same year Ferguson himself was still gainfully employed as keeper. Buchanan’s text, meanwhile, which had enjoyed a more continuous currency precisely because of its perennially contentious nature, remained the focus of much scholarly acrimony.