The Enlightenment in Scotland

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. In 1696 the Edinburgh student, Thomas Aitkenhead, claimed theology was “a rhapsody of feigned and ill invented nonsense”. He was hanged for his trouble - just one victim of a repressive religious society called the Scottish Kirk. Yet within 60 years Scotland was transformed by the ideas sweeping the continent in what we call the Enlightenment. This Scottish Enlightenment emerged on a broad front. From philosophy to farming it championed empiricism, questioned religion and debated reason. It was crowned by the philosophical brilliance of David Hume and by Adam Smith - the father of modern economics. But what led to this ‘Scottish Miracle’, was it an indigenous phenomenon or did it depend on influence from abroad? It profoundly influenced the American revolutionaries and the British Empire, but what legacy does it have for Scotland today?

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  • Professor Tom Devine 2 episodes
    Director of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen
  • Karen O'Brien 16 episodes
    Reader in English and American Literature at the University of Warwick
  • Alexander Broadie 2 episodes
    Professor of Logic and Rhetoric at the University of Glasgow

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Auto-category: 190 (Modern Western philosophy)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1696, the Edinburgh student Thomas Aikenhead, aged 18, claimed that theology was quote, a rhapsody of feigned and ill-invented nonsense, unquote.