David Allan’s Making British Culture and Mark R. M. Towsey’s Reading the Scottish Enlightenment pursue the same worthy goal: to give reading a larger role in the definition and conceptualisation of the Enlightenment, particularly in its Scottish manifestation. The connection between the two books runs deep.
Addressing the Joint Session of Congress in 2003, Tony Blair issued a stirring defence of the democratic idea. Words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, he declared, were not ‘American values or Western values’:
The most forceful initial impression that emerges from this collection is the diversity of topics covered. The work focuses on the patterns of British imperialism, liberalism and modernity in the 19th century, exploring the degree to which liberalism was distinctive and the specific ways in which it was coercive.
The scholarship on the intellectual, religious and political history of early modern England presents a large use of terms such as ‘orthodox’, ‘deist’, ‘atheist’, ‘radical’, and their respective ‘isms’.
One could perhaps argue that, so far as the popular academic imagination is concerned, America has never had much of a reputation so far as historical theory goes.
For those historians who have studied the English Reformation or the writing of polemics, histories and plays in the 16th century the name John Bale (1495–1563) appears high on the list of English scholars supporting a reformist agenda. Bale popularised the genre of martyrology for an English audience, later taken to its logical conclusion in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Timothy Larsen’s purpose in writing A People of One Book is to demonstrate the extent to which the Bible dominated Victorian thought and culture. He claims that this has yet to be fully grasped, and endeavours to prove his thesis by offering a detailed examination of how Scripture was central to the experience of divergent groupings in Victorian England.
This volume collects and revises a series of articles by Patrick Collinson, which were first published between 1994 and 2009. It therefore systematically assembles a number of previously independent arguments, in order to provide a coherent vision of the way 16th-century Englishmen – and most of Collinson’s subjects are men – imagined their nation.
Histories of British socialism are nothing new, with classic studies in the field going back to G. D. H. Cole.(1) Mark Bevir’s new book, however, comes from a slightly different perspective, in that it focuses on the ‘making’ of British socialism in, broadly, the final quarter of the 19th century.
And whenever we abuse that reason, and act beneath the character and dignity of a rational creature, we lose the divine image in that respect; we have nothing to denominate us men but outward shape; or, in other words, we become brutes in the shapes of men.(1)