ECSSS at ASECS (3/31-4/3 2016) - "The nature of the superstructure": Scottish Historiography in the Eighteenth Century

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Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies at American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 2016
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Alongside groundbreaking innovations in the disciplines of philosophy, law, and medicine, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment were also very influential historiographers. Historians such as David Hume, William Robertson, and John Millar wrote histories that both upheld and challenged the norms of the genre, while historiographers like Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson would shape the discussion of how to write histories throughout the nineteenth century. The Scottish project of "Improvement" in the first half of the eighteenth century created the intellectual climate that would privilege the teaching of new types of historical thought that would serve Scotland as a roadmap to move into a commercial age.

Theorizing the writing – and living – of history played an important part in the way Scottish thinkers understood society and the coherence of its institutions. This line of thought led John Millar to argue in An Historical View of the English Government (1787) that locating the foundations of present social institutions in the historical past would allow the formation of "a just opinion concerning the nature of the superstructure." Thus for the Scots, rigorous and directed historical inquiry could educate readers about the nature and composition of the social institutions in which they participate on a daily basis.

This panel seeks to explore some of the ways in which eighteenth-century Scottish historiographers developed a discourse that would contribute to mapping the "superstructure" through innovations in historical inquiry. Papers on any topic concerning Scottish or Scottish-influenced historiography will be considered, and could include discussions of neoclassical, philosophical, or conjectural history, stadial theory, or social organization theory (spontaneous order, unintended consequences, Invisible Hand arguments, etc.). Other considerations may include similarities and differences in Scottish, English, and/or Continental historiographical models, the influence of historical writing on literature or vice versa, and Scottish critiques of contemporaneous and past historiographical methodologies.

Please send abstracts to Michael Amrozowicz at by 13 September 2015.