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Title: Adam Ferguson's History of the Progress and the Termination of the Roman Republic : passions, epistemology, and politics in the late Scottish Enlightenment
Author: Bello, Xandra
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 9521
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis is an analysis of the nature of scientific history in the late Scottish Enlightenment. Using Adam Ferguson's History of the Progress and the Termination of the Roman Republic (1799) as the main analytical framework, the thesis explores two fundamental questions: the consolidation of a scientific epistemology in the field of history and its role in shaping British politics during the Age of Revolutions. Still trying to navigate the new political realities of the Union of 1707, for philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment such as Adam Ferguson the French Revolution posed a direct challenge to the commercial civilisation epitomised by modern Britain. Aiming to mirror the successful discoveries that empiricist methodologies had prompted in the field of natural philosophy, Ferguson set out to uncover the moral and political laws underpinning society. He turned to the history of the rise and fall of Roman Republic as his source material and elevated it to the status of universal tragedy. Ultimately, what Ferguson wanted was to provide the political class of modern Britain with a scientific-based model for discussion. Moreover, he claimed that Progress and Termination was intended as an impartial narrative for the wider civic community to articulate its national identity through a fact-based public debate and in the face of a new political era for modern Europe. This thesis examines the theory and practice behind this approach and demonstrates that the practice of philosophical history during the late Scottish Enlightenment cannot be understood without the development of a modern scientific epistemology. The thesis is divided into four chapters which focus on context, method, structure, and content of Progress and Termination. The first two chapters analyse the figure of the writer and that of the reader of history. They situate Ferguson's persona and work within the political and cultural contexts of late eighteenth-century Scotland. In doing so, they show how Ferguson's theory of history shaped his views of the civic function of historians and their readers within the modern political nation. Chapter three examines the structure of Progress and Termination through Ferguson's use of three different categories of historical time; it illustrates how Ferguson's use of time informed the political and moral message of his history. Finally, chapter four studies how the narrative of Progress and Termination allowed Ferguson to engage with the convulsive political landscape of post-1789 Europe and why he believed that his methodology could provide Britain with a solution to the challenges of modernity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Aberdeen
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Enlightenment