‘Race’, Women and Progress in the Scottish Enlightenment

  • Silvia Sebastiani


A great deal of thinking in Scotland during the second half of the eighteenth century was devoted to the problem of the diversity and differences among peoples of the earth. The idea of ‘progress’, which has been considered the specific contribution of the Scottish Enlightenment to the European Enlightenment, was one result.1 Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, William Robertson, John Millar and Lord Kames all contributed to a new historical approach, which shifted attention from chronology to manners, and from kings and heroes to the path of peoples towards civilization. Through the comparison of different societies, progress was shown to emerge from changes across economic, political, social and cultural spheres. Differences between peoples were explained within a scheme of historical development: from simple, rough and lawless to refined, polite and commercial societies.2


Civil Society Eighteenth Century Commercial Society Comparative View Consumer Society 
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© Silvia Sebastiani 2005

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  • Silvia Sebastiani

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