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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

Enlightenment (in a time of crisis): England/Scotland

11th July 2020, 16:30 to 17:45

This workshop is part of a series of online events arranged in lieu of the full Durham Early Modern Conference, which will return 6-8 July 2021

Speakers and Abstracts

Chair: Stephen Taylor (Durham University)

Ashley Walsh (Cardiff University)

England and Switzerland in the European Enlightenment

Despite the historic positioning of the Church of England throughout the long Reformation as a via media between Geneva and Rome, one of the least studied aspects of the Enlightenment in England was the growing sympathy among lay and clerical English intellectuals for Swiss Protestantism as its varieties of Calvinism, especially in Geneva, facing the challenges of rational religion, Arianism, and Socinianism, became more liberal. Scholars have tended to focus largely on the Swiss connections of Edward Gibbon, who resided frequently in Lausanne. Beyond the European contexts for Gibbon, the ‘Helvetic trio’ of Jean-Alphonse Turretini, Samuel Werenfels, and Jean-Frederick Osterwald partook in the Enlightened Anglophilia that historians now associate with the likes of Voltaire and Montesquieu as they sought to reduce the doctrinal impositions of the Formula consensus ecclesiarum Helveticarum (1675). By way of return, Englishmen like Thomas Hollis and Francis Blackburne played a central role in the English translation and transmission of reformers such as Brian Herport in their campaigns for a more comprehensive and anti-Catholic Church of England. Most notoriously, Jean-Jacques Rousseau engaged with William Warburton’s The alliance between church and state (1736) in his notorious chapter ‘On civil religion’ in The social contract (1762), an engagement that was received by Anglophiles like Nicolas Bonneville during the French Revolution in De l’espirit des religions (1791). This paper explores the relationship between Enlightened Swiss and English intellectuals as they attempted to fashion forms of scientific inquiry and religious settlement congenial to this ‘enlightened age’. It also shows how, by situating the Enlightenment within the various European traditions of Christian reform, England might fully be situated within a European conception of the Enlightenment

Marco Barducci (Durham University)

Enlightenment and secularisation in England (1650s-1730s): the reception of French and Dutch ideas.

In this paper I examine the changes in English religious and intellectual culture occurring between the 17th and the early 18th centuries in light of the reception of early modern Dutch and French books and ideas. In particular, I argue that the diffusion in England of an historical/critical approach to the reading of Scripture “as a work of culture” and the development of a vision of the clergy that prioritized social cohesion and the primacy of ethics over theological speculations, were enabled by the engagement with the works authors such as Grotius, I. Vossius, Spinoza, and Richard Simon.

Alasdair Raffe (University of Edinburgh)

Heterodoxy and the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’

This paper argues that the agenda of ‘pluralising’ the Enlightenment, when taken to its logical conclusion, requires us to study the development of pluralism itself. This is particularly true in the case of Scotland. It is often suggested that, notwithstanding some cordial internal disagreements, the Scottish Enlightenment was a compact and coherent movement, progressive in its moral and economic thought, but conservative in its politics and religious commitments. This view has discouraged historians from searching for heterodoxy in early eighteenth-century Scotland. Yet the appearance of heterodoxy in various forms, and the increasing willingness of civil and ecclesiastical authorities to tolerate it, shaped the culture in which enlightened Scots worked. This paper reflects on one strand of heterodox discourse in Scotland, hitherto scarcely studied: deism and anti-deism.