Scottish political ideas in eighteenth century Germany : the case of Adam Ferguson
This thesis examines the reception of the works of Adam Ferguson, a major thinker of the Scottish Enlightenment, by a range of German readers in the late eighteenth century. It provides a survey of Ferguson's main political ideas, and argues that many of his prominent German readers did not come to terms with them. The thesis contrasts the political realities and concerns of Ferguson's Scotland with the profoundly different political concerns of his German readers, and their often vague and inaccurate ideas of Scotland, and of the British constitution. Their documented responses to Ferguson's works are brought as evidence for a cumulative and complex case of misreception. The terms in which Ferguson expressed his political ideas can be fruitfully analyzed as a political language, a vocabulary of recognizable and mutually complementing political terms. After a close examination of this particular vocabulary, the thesis proceeds to show in detail how Ferguson's German translators, commentators, reviewers and readers unwittingly dismantled this vocabulary, lost or ignored its republican and activist elements, and sometimes shifted it into other vocabularies which were far removed from the author's political intentions. However, the differences between the individual readers are emphasized, not only with respect to their varied intellectual backgrounds and works, but also touching on their personal profiles as readers and thinkers. The thesis aims especially to highlight three aspects of this Scottish- German encounter: the capacity of Ferguson's texts to be removed from their contexts and misread; the failure of civic humanist ideas to make a serious entry into German political discourse; and the merits of close textual analysis for supporting a type of explanation, which may supplement or counter-balance other explanations, about the limited effect of "imported" political ideas in eighteenth-century German discourse.