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 Drawing extensively on his unpublished correspondence, Jeffrey Smitten captures both the man and his work in his own words.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.
This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “The Labour Party in Scotland: Religion, the Union, and the Irish Dimension,” by Graham Walker (Queen’s University). The publisher’s description follows:
This book makes a timely contribution to our understanding of the dramatic political changes that have recently affected Scotland and thrown into doubt the country’s future position within the United Kingdom. Its focus is on the Labour Party and the loss of its traditional electoral support base. This theme is related to religion and its relevance to Scotland’s identity politics. The author examines how Labour was able to appeal across the ethno-religious divide in Scotland for many decades, before considering the impact of the new political context of devolution in the 21st century and the greater scrutiny given to the question of sectarianism in Scottish life. Walker demonstrates the role played by the sectarianism controversy in Labour’s loss of political control and its eclipse by the Scottish National Party (SNP). This book is also the first to assess the significance of the Irish dimension in Scotland’s political development, in particular the impact of the conflict in nearby Northern Ireland. It will appeal to students and scholars of Scottish and Irish politics, political science and political/electoral history, as well as the interested wider reader.
This month, the Oxford University Press releases “Rethinking the Scottish Revolution: Covenanted Scotland, 1637-51,” by Laura A.M. Stewart (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:
The English revolution is one of the most intensely-debated events in history; parallel events in Scotland have never attracted the same degree of interest. Rethinking the Scottish Revolution argues for a new interpretation of the seventeenth-century Scottish revolution that goes beyond questions about its radicalism, and reconsiders its place within an overarching ‘British’ narrative.
In this volume, Laura Stewart analyses how interactions between print and manuscript polemic, crowds, and political performances enabled protestors against a Prayer Book to destroy Charles I’s Scottish government. Particular attention is given to the way in which debate in Scotland was affected by the emergence of London as a major publishing centre. The subscription of the 1638 National Covenant occurred within this context and further politicized subordinate social groups that included women. Unlike in England, however, public debate was contained. A remodelled constitution revivified the institutions of civil and ecclesiastical governance, enabling Covenanted Scotland to pursue interventionist policies in Ireland and England – albeit at terrible cost to the Scottish people.
War transformed the nature of state power in Scotland, but this achievement was contentious and fragile. A key weakness lay in the separation of ecclesiastical and civil authority, which justified for some a strictly conditional understanding of obedience to temporal authority. Rethinking the Scottish Revolution explores challenges to legitimacy of the Covenanted constitution, but qualifies the idea that Scotland was set on a course to destruction as a result. Covenanted government was overthrown by the new model army in 1651, but its ideals persisted. In Scotland as well as England, the language of liberty, true religion, and the public interest had justified resistance to Charles I. The Scottish revolution embedded a distinctive and durable political culture that ultimately proved resistant to assimilation into the nascent British state.
In April, Routledge will release “Church and State in Scotland: Developing Law,” by Francis Lyall (University of Aberdeen). The publisher’s description follows:
The interaction of faith and the community is a fundamental of modern society. The first country to adopt Presbyterianism in its national church, Scotland adopted a system of church government, which is now in world-wide use. This book examines the development and current state of Scots law. Drawing on previous material as well as discussing current topical issues, this book makes some comparisons between Scotland and other legal and religious jurisdictions. The study first considers the Church of Scotland, its â€˜Disruptionâ€™ and statutorily recognised reconstitution and then the position of other denominations before assessing the interaction of religion and law and the impact of Human Rights and various discrimination laws within this distinctive Presbyterian country. This unique book will be of interest to both students and lecturers in constitutional and civil law, as well as historians and ecclesiastics.