Whilst we mainly focus on the Jacobite history here at Culloden it is always nice to branch out and look at life in the 18th Century from a broader view. This week we get to look at something a bit cheerier than usual and discover some of the achievements that occurred in Scotland during the Scottish Enlightenment.
The Scottish Enlightenment saw a period of time where thinkers excelled and Scotland saw a rush of scientific and intellectual accomplishments. Important fields such as chemistry, medicine, archaeology, philosophy and engineering all advanced at a much faster rate than previously seen. But what caused this period of success?
To understand how such a time of enlightenment could come about we have to look back a little. Firstly, for centuries Scotland was lucky enough to have strong links with Europe and from the 13th Century they had studied at Europe’s great institutions learning from all avenues and bringing back their knowledge to Scotland. Secondly, if we look to after the Reformation there was a desire that every parish should have a school. It took a long time for this to be a reality but by the late 17th Century most places, especially in the lowlands of Scotland had a school. Therefore, most children were attending school, if only for a few years, and were encouraged in the act of learning.
Then we look at the Jacobite Risings. The events that took place, the Act of Union and the eventual defeat of Prince Charles’ army led to a time when politics did not take such a front seat. This meant there was a social gap which educated men were ready to fill. Edinburgh became a great place to be and the hub of many great men. The city went through big changes with the creation of the New Town and its university, where students were able to attend lectures in a range of subjects, became one of the best in the world.
Men from the enlightenment are still know today and include David Hume, a philosopher who had great impacts of the theory of knowledge, Adam Smith who did amazing work in the field of economics, Robert Adam the architect whose work is seen in Culzean Castle and James Hutton who is credited by many as being the founder of modern geology.
Scotland thrived as the political and religious authorities relaxed their views on new ideas and the country became a leader in new research across Europe. We see amazing inventions stemming from the Enlightenment. James Watt invented a new type of steam engine in 1765 transforming the way many factories worked and Charles Macintosh developed the waterproof material from which his famous Macs were made.
After the hardship and turmoil of the Jacobite Risings, Scotland emerged as a nucleus of innovative thinking and the Scottish Enlightenment was a period of great progress and innovation.
We hope you enjoyed this very brief insight into the Enlightenment, as always please like, share, tweet, comment and be sure to discover more about the many men who contributed to this amazing period in history.
All the best, K & D