A prominent figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, William Robertson differed from his contemporaries, such as Voltaire, Hume and Gibbon, because he used the critical tools of the Enlightenment to strengthen religion, not to attack it. As an historian, he helped shape 18th-century historiography. As a minister of the Church of Scotland, he sought to make the church fit for a polite age. And, as principal of the University of Edinburgh, he presided over a flourishing of intellectual inquiry in the midst of the Enlightenment. But despite his European fame, he was a controversial figure. Drawing extensively on his unpublished correspondence, Jeffrey Smitten captures both the man and his work in his own words. By foregrounding Robertson’s religious outlook, Smitten gives us a more contextualised and nuanced interpretation of Robertson’s motives, intentions and beliefs than we have had before.
Last month, Brill Publishers released The Hajj and Europe in the Age of Empire by Umar Ryad (Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows:
The present volume focuses on the political perceptions of the Hajj, its global religious appeal to Muslims, and the European struggle for influence and supremacy in the Muslim world in the age of pre-colonial and colonial empires. In the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century, a pivotal change in seafaring occurred, through which western Europeans played important roles in politics, trade, and culture. Viewing this age of empires through the lens of the Hajj puts it into a different perspective, by focusing on how increasing European dominance of the globe in pre-colonial and colonial times was entangled with Muslim religious action, mobility, and agency. The study of Europe’s connections with the Hajj therefore tests the hypothesis that the concept of agency is not limited to isolated parts of the globe. By adopting the “tools of empires,” the Hajj, in itself a global activity, would become part of global and trans-cultural history.
With contributions by: Aldo D’Agostini; Josep Lluís Mateo Dieste; Ulrike Freitag; Mahmood Kooria; Michael Christopher Low; Adam Mestyan; Umar Ryad; John Slight and Bogusław R. Zagórski.