The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender, and the Limits of Progress

Overview

The Scottish Enlightenment shaped a new conception of history as a gradual and universal progress from savagery to civil society. Whereas women emancipated themselves from the yoke of male-masters, men in turban acquired polite manners and became civilized. Such a conception, however, presents problematic questions: why were the Americans still savage? Why was it that the Europeans only had completed all the stages of the historic process? Could modern societies escape the destiny of earlier empires and avoid ...

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The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender, and the Limits of Progress

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Overview

The Scottish Enlightenment shaped a new conception of history as a gradual and universal progress from savagery to civil society. Whereas women emancipated themselves from the yoke of male-masters, men in turban acquired polite manners and became civilized. Such a conception, however, presents problematic questions: why were the Americans still savage? Why was it that the Europeans only had completed all the stages of the historic process? Could modern societies escape the destiny of earlier empires and avoid decadence? Was there a limit beyond which women's influence might result in dehumanization? The Scottish Enlightenment's legacy for modernity emerges here as a two-faced Janus, an unresolved tension between universalism and hierarchy, progress and the limits of progress.

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Meet the Author

Silvia Sebastiani is Maître de Conférences (Associate Professor) at the école des Hautes études en Sciences Socials in Paris, France, where she teaches seminars on the experiences and ideologies of race in the early modern period and on Enlightenment historiography, and coordinate the group of research mondes britannique.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Scottish Enlightenment as Historiographic Problem
1. Hume versus Montesquieu: Race Against Climate
2. The Natural History of Humankind and the Natural History of Man
3. Ignoble Savages: a Blank in the History of the Species
4. Universal Prerogatives of Humankind
5. Measures of Civilization: Women, Races, and Progress
Conclusion

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