I joined St Andrews in September 2018, having been awarded my PhD from the University of Edinburgh earlier that year. My research and teaching interests focus on the history of ideas and culture in Scotland and Europe, c.1650–c.1850. I am especially interested in their turbulent histories of religious debate, the intersections between religious belief and the history of scholarship, and the significance of religious thought on understandings of the self, society, and the wider world.
Religion and Unbelief After the Scottish Enlightenment, c. 1790–c.1843
My current research explores the history of freethinking, heterodoxy and unbelief in early nineteenth-century Scotland. Christian commentators of this period frequently expressed their anxieties over the rise of ‘infidelity’. These concerns were fuelled by the dramatic events of the French Revolution, the sale of radical books, and the emergence of freethinking societies across Scotland. What did ‘unbelief’mean for thinkers of the early nineteenth century? What was the relationship between learning and unbelief? And how far did the legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment shape the religious debates of the early nineteenth century? My research forms part of a collaborative Leverhulme-funded project, After the Enlightenment: Scottish Intellectual Life, c.1790-c.1843, which aims to make a substantial contribution to our understanding of the crucial transitional age between the Scottish Enlightenment and the Victorian period.
Religion, Erudition, and Enlightenment: Histories of Paganism in Eighteenth-Century Scotland
My thesis, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, recovered an overlooked dimension of the Scottish Enlightenment: the historical study of pagan religions. It discussed figures whose historical works have received little attention, and shed new light on definitive works of the period, including Hume’s Natural History of Religion (1757). In it, I argue that paganism mattered to eighteenth-century Scots because it provided answers to hotly contested religious and philosophical debates. I question prevailing interpretations of the study of paganism in Enlightenment Europe, which claim that the study of non-Christian religions unequivocally provoked a religious crisis, and demonstrate the forgotten significance of erudition in the Scottish Enlightenment. I am currently preparing to publish my thesis as a monograph.
A. Johnston and F. Loughlin (eds), Antiquity and Enlightenment Culture: New Approaches and Perspectives. Manuscript currently under review by Brill.
Articles & Chapters
‘The Study of Pagan Religions in Enlightenment Scotland: The Case of Thomas Blackwell (1701–1757)’, Records of the Scottish Church History Society 45 (2016), pp. 82–98.
‘Ritual and Religion’, in C. P. Biggam and K. Wolf (eds), A Cultural History of Colour in the Age of Enlightenment (London: Bloomsbury). Forthcoming.
‘Socrates and Religious Debate in the Scottish Enlightenment’, in C. Moore (ed.), Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Socrates (Leiden: Brill). Forthcoming.
‘The Pagan Supernatural in the Scottish Enlightenment’, in M. McGill and J. Goodare (eds), The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland (Manchester: Manchester University Press). In Preparation.
‘Ancients and Moderns in Europe: Comparative Perspectives’, Intellectual History Review 26 (2016), pp. 558–561.
‘The Life of William Robertson: Minister, Historian, and Principal’, Records of the Scottish Church History Society. In Preparation.