Lectures in Intellectual History
Summary: Recordings from the popular public lecture series. Between 2010 and 2013 at the University of Sussex, and from 2013 at the University of St Andrews.
According to Reinhart Koselleck, the eighteenth century witnessed the gradual and permanent separation of concepts of "civil war" and "revolution". Placing these ideas in a longer perspective – a longue durée that goes back to republican Rome and comes forward to our own times – challenges this narrative by showing that civil war was the genus of which revolution was only a species. This argument can help us to rethink the late eighteenth-century "Age of Revolutions"; it can also explain the confusion as we attempt to understand political violence in places like Egypt and Syria today.
2013 sees the centenary of the birth of Douglas Young, one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century Scottish nationalism. Leader of the SNP from 1942 to the end of the Second World War, Young was imprisoned twice for refusing conscription – both military and industrial. He was also an eminent classicist, who translated some of the plays of Aristophanes into Lallans (Lowland Scots). In this lecture, Colin Kidd investigates Young’s chequered career, and examine the broader context of the curious Scottish nationalist response to the world crisis of the 1940s.
Ideas of historical distance have long been fundamental to Western conceptions of historical knowledge. In practice, however, distance seems to have dwindled into little more than a professional shibboleth - a way of defending the historian's labours against the simplifications of popular journalism or the shortcuts of the guided tour. In common usage, historical distance refers to a position of detached observation made possible by the passage of time, but the standard conception narrows the idea of distance and burdens it with a regulatory purpose. In this lecture, Professor Salber Philips argues that distance needs to be re-conceived in terms of the wider set of engagements that mediate our relations to the past, as well as the full spectrum of distance-positions from near to far. Re-imagined in these terms, distance sheds its prescriptiveness and becomes a valuable heuristic for examining the range and variability of historical representation.
One of the great surprises of modern thought is the survival of democracy. Today the victory of democracy continues to be associated with the American and French Revolutions. But democracy was for the most part castigated by reformers and revolutionaries across Europe during the enlightenment era. Attempts to apply democratic ideas universally were generally ridiculed. The challenge faced by advocates of democracy was to make the theory compatible with larger forms of state; in short, to turn a democracy into a stable empire.
Over the quarter of a millennium from the later seventeenth century to the Great War, the phrase ‘civil and religious liberty’ was a pervasive feature of English political language. ‘Civil and religious liberty’ was a condition which the nation was allegedly being denied, or alternatively which it was said to have achieved or to be achieving. How and why had the phrase come into being? In 1600 it would have been unintelligible. There was then no conception of religious liberty to partner or complement a conception of civil liberty. Religious liberty meant the emancipation of the soul from sin, a blessing which, as John Calvin had said, ‘may very well agree with civil bondage’. The alliance of religious with civil liberty became possible only when religious liberty acquired a new meaning and became something like a human right. The phrase ‘civil and religious liberty’ evolved during the Puritan Revolution of 1640 to 1660, and was one of its major intellectual consequences. Its emergence has two claims on our attention. It betokened a new conception of the relationship between God and society. And it demonstrates the capacity of political events, and of pressures of political power, to shape developments in intellectual history.
Justifications of the humanities often employ a mythos that exceeds their historical dispositions and reach. This applies to justifications that appeal to an 'idea' of the humanities grounded in the cultivation of reason for its own sake. But the same problem affects more recent accounts that seek to shatter this idea by admitting an 'event' capable of dissolving and refounding the humanities in 'being'. In offering a sketch of the emergence of the modern humanities from early modern humanism, the paper argues that these twin philosophical justifications fail to capture both the array of intellectual arts that have informed the humanities disciplines and the variety of uses to which these arts have been put. Nonetheless, the two philosophical constructions have had a concrete impact on the disposition of the modern humanities, seen in the respective structuralist and poststructuralist reconfigurations of the disciplines that began to take place under the banner of 'theory' during the 1960s. In discussing the effects of theory on the humanities in Australia, the lecture focuses on the unforseeable consequences of attempts to provide arts-based disciplines with a foundation either in cognitive structures or in an 'event' that shatters them.
In this lecture, Professor Moore discusses three denominations of Protestant theology: Calvinism, or the dogmatic theology of the Reformed or Presbyterian churches; the theology of the Arminians or the Remonstrants in the Netherlands, the most important of whom for the purposes of this lecture is Hugo Grotius; and the theology of the Socinians, the most significant of whom was John Locke. It is a story that travels from Geneva to Holland, to England, and back to Geneva for some closing remarks on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose political principles are taken to be a return to the principles of Calvin and his followers.
In this lecture, Professor Albertone explains Franklin's interest in radical political and economic reform in tandem with a group of reform-minded luminaries in Britain and in France, and the role he played at the centre of an uninvestigated triangulation between France, Great Britain and America. The lecture explains Franklin's interest in physiocracy and the radical implications of French economic ideas, from Turgot and Condorcet to the British radical milieus. It will highlight Franklin's ability to deliver economic reflection and radical thought, and his passionate belief that only a new attention to the nature of land ownership and its role could combat the forces of corruption so prevalent in commercial societies and shape a modern republic.
Dr Keith Tribe considers whether the label 'Ricardian Socialist' is applicable to Karl Marx. With the general loss of interest in Marx as an analyst of capitalism, argument over the development of his thinking, from his early writings to Capital Vol. I, has given way to a more or less uncritical acceptance of Capital as the centrepiece of his endeavours, and a neglect of its sources. However, in 1913 Lenin rightly noted that there were "three sources and component parts" of "Marxism": German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism. Curiously, few readers of Marx have taken this point seriously; while some attention has been paid to "German philosophy", little attention has been paid to the importance of Proudhon and others, while almost none at all has ever been paid to Marx's debt to the writings of David Ricardo and Adam Smith.
Professor Donald Winch on Toynbee's Oxford lectures on the 'Industrial Revolution', which were once thought to have been responsible for coining and diffusing an idea that has remained essential to students of British history since the lectures were posthumously published in 1882. Toynbee has also been credited with transmitting an interpretation of the revolution that became known, in the words of E. P. Thompson, as 'classical catastrophic orthodoxy'. The lecture re-examines Toynbee's role as historian of catastrophe and his remedies for dealing with its consequences with the aim of establishing the nineteenth-century political, moral, and intellectual context within which his interpretation of the industrial revolution can best be understood.
Professor Jeremy Jennings on possibly the most famous book about America, 'Demoracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville. But what did Tocqueville see when he visited America and how did his visit influence his writing? This lecture seeks to answer both of these questions and to cast light on how other French authors saw America in the nineteenth century.
Professor Peter Mandler explores how the language of social science penetrated its way into the everyday discourse of educated people, particularly in the period after the Second World War. He will also examine the extent to which people in mid-twentieth century Britain and America used the conceptual tools of psychology, sociology and anthropology to view their personal 'issues' also as social 'problems'.
Professor Nicola Miller discusses the reception of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Latin America. It is well known that many of the leaders of the Wars of Independence invoked Rousseau in support of their challenge to colonial authority, but how exactly were Rousseau's works read and interpreted in early nineteenth-century Latin America? This lecture identifies variations in how his ideas were adopted and adapted by different actors, in different parts of the region, in order to explore the problems and possibilities of explaining how and why ideas travel.
Professor Norman Vance asks whether there is such a thing as 'the Irish mind', or whether that is the ultimate Irish joke. If there is a distinctive Irish intellectual history, how did it develop in the face of the disruptions of a complicated and traumatic political and social history? Somehow, new ideas and initiatives keep bubbling up in every generation, but where do they come from? Is there an Irish intellectual aristocracy, or should that be aristocracies? This lecture explores these and other Irish questions.
Professor Stefan Collini offers a few brief reflections on the history and current state of the institution we call the university, and then goes on to propose a vocabulary and a perspective which enable us to discuss the role of such institutions in more fruitful terms than the clichés about 'contributing to economic growth' which currently dominate public debate on the topic. This lecture was given in memory of John Wyon Burrow (1935-2009), who was the first holder of a chair in Intellectual History at the University of Sussex and was one of the founder members of the subject at this university.