The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters

Colin Kidd writes:

In the course of 15 years teaching history at the University of Glasgow, with between a hundred and fifty and two hundred students in my classes, I inevitably received a few complaints. Some have stuck in the memory. ‘He made us read a whole book by Hume.’ Or the student in a class on 19th-century intellectual history who grumbled about having to read books from the anthropology and biology sections of the library; surely that wasn’t part of a history degree? A tiny minority of students found fault with revisionist analysis which punctured reassuring prejudices, not least where contextualisation seemed to verge on extenuation. A Scottish nationalist once objected, for instance, that in a lecture on Jacobitism I whitewashed the reputation of ‘Butcher’ Cumberland.

(LRB 5 December 2013)

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