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Early Modern Political Thought in Context
Title page of Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651), from the copy in the University of Aberdeen Historic Collections
CEMS gathers several specialists on the Enlightenment, both of continental Europe and of the British Isles. The study of citizenship and the relationship between intellectual, religious, moral and political life from the late sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, as well as the rise of national identities during the same period are the research focus of several staff members. Michael Brown specialises in the ideas and the culture of the Scottish and Irish Enlightenment in a European context and focuses on the interaction of politics, faith and morals within Irish and Scottish civil society. Karin Friedrich focuses on the political culture of Prussia and Poland-Lithuania, the nature and impact of state-building under enlightened despotism in the German lands, as well as problems of early modern political, religious and historical identity. Her latest work has been on the history of constitutional, legal and religious ideas in Poland-Lithuania. Andrew Gordon works on aspects of citizenship and urban culture in the early modern period. Stephen Gaukroger focuses on the history of science in the early modern period, particularly the emergence of scientific culture in the West, and its relationship to religion. He is currently working on volume two of The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility, 1680-1750. Catherine Wilson, Regius Professor of Moral Philosophy, joined the Philosophy Department and CEMS from New York. Her work focuses on seventeenth and eighteenth-century philosophy and the development of early modern science, and she has a special interest in the Philosophical Anthropology of Rousseau, Herder and Kant. Mogens Laerke specialises on 17th and 18th-century philosophy, particularly the work of Spinoza and Leibniz, as well a Descartes, enabling students to work across philosophical, historical, scientific and literary thought and disciplines.
King’s College Chapel, University of Aberdeen . Pope Alexander VI granting Bishop Elphinstone the bull of foundation"
Nation Building & Colonialism
A Scottish Warship, by an unknown artist (possibly from the circle of Issac Sailmaker). From the collection of the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.
Aberdeen offers an exceptional range of expertise on the early stages of British and European colonialism and nation building. Professor Bartlett is currently completing a Concise History of Ireland for Cambridge University Press. His future research plans include a study of the military origins of the Irish state in the early modern period, and an examination of Irish attitudes towards the British Empire in the nineteenth century. Andrew Mackillop writes on Scottish imperialism in the Far East and India, and the impact of returning Scottish Nabobs upon eighteenth and early nineteenth century Scotland . Robert Frost and Karin Friedrich work on emerging nationhood in north-eastern Europe, and Derek Hughes on early representations of Central and South American religion and culture. Tom Bartlett focuses on the construction and development of eighteenth-century Irish nationhood and identity, and Michael Brown investigates the impact of the French Revolution and its ideas of nationhood on the late Scottish Enlightenment.
Scotland & Ireland
Cawdor Castle, Marischal Museum, University of Aberdeen
Tom Bartlett is a renowned professor of Irish History, specializing, on – among other topics - the revolutionary late eighteenth century, and the development and construction of Irish identity. He was Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge (2001-2), was awarded a Government of Ireland Senior Fellowship in 2002, and has been a member of the Royal Irish Academy since 1995. Andrew Mackillop works on Scottish involvement in the East India Trade from 1695 to 1813 , and its impact on Scottish culture and the Scottish economy, as well as the impact of Empire on 'Britishness'. His recent publications include a book (with Steven Murdoch) on Military Governors and Imperial Frontiers c. 1600-1800: A Study of Scotland and Empires (2003). Michael Brown works on the experience of the Enlightenment within Ireland and Scotland. He is currently writing a study of the Enlightenment in Ireland and a monograph on the impact of the French Revolution on Scottish intellectual life. As a member of the Research Institute for Scottish and Irish Studies (RIISS), Michael Brown contributes to the synergies that exist between CEMS and Scottish-Irish Studies at the University of Aberdeen. Aberdeen also houses the Macbean Collection, which, with over 3,500 books and 1,000 pamphlets, plus numerous sermons, official reports and satirical verse, is one of the largest Jacobite Collections in Britain. Originating in the 18th century, the museums and collections of King’s College and Marischal College are an invaluable resource for researchers of early modern Scotland. Jackson Armstrong has strong interests in the history of the English-Scottish borderlands in the late medieval and early modern period and concepts of space between the two nations. Sandra Hynes works on the relationship between Irish and Scottish Presbyterians in the Restoration era.
Tudor & Stuart Literature
Thomas Reid (d. 1624), Latin Secretary to James I, whose complete library is in the Aberdeen Historic Collections.
Tom Rist works on drama in relation to religious history, and is currently working on representations of death and remembrance in Renaissance drama. Derek Hughes has written extensively on Restoration theatre and other aspects of late seventeenth century thought and culture, including interpretation of the cultures of Central and South America. In recent years, he has worked in particular on the theatre of Aphra Behn, and on Oroonoko. He is currently completing a book on the interpretation of human sacrifice in the major European literatures, including those of the early modern period. Andrew Gordon works British literature and culture c.1500-1700, particularly representations of the city; literature and cartography. Before coming to Aberdeen he worked as a Research Fellow on the Francis Bacon Correspondence Project, and he is currently completing a book on the spatial representation of the modern city. Syrithe Pugh specialises in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry, particularly its political aspects.
Aphra Behn, by Peter Lely. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, USA (bequest of Arthur D. Schlechter), courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library
French Literature & Culture
Georges de la Tour, The Dice Players. Preston Hall Museum, Stockton-on-Tees, courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library
Renaissance & Baroque Art & Music
Titian?, Le Concert ChampÍtre. The Louvre, courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library
Aberdeen is home to a small but strong group of researchers in the field of Renaissance and Baroque art. Peter Davidson works on the interactions between the visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture) and literary forms. He has a special interest in the art of festivals and in Baroque art throughout Europe. His Idea of North was published in 2004. Gauvin Bailey specialises on Southern and Central European Renaissance and Baroque arts and their international diffusion in Latin America and Asia, as well as the patronage of Catholic religious orders during the late Renaissance and Baroque eras, notably the Jesuits. He has just completed a new book, The Andean Hybrid Baroque: Convergent Cultures in the Churches of Colonial Peru, a study of colonial architecture in Southern Peru and Bolivia that combines indigenous iconography and symbolism with that of Catholicism and the International Baroque. He is currently working on a survey entitled Baroque & Rococo. Following the organisation of a CEMS-backed conference at Aberdeen, Tom Nichols has edited the volume Others and outcasts in early modern Europe: Picturing the social margins (Edited, Ashgate, 2007) and has recently published a monograph, The art of poverty: Irony and ideal in sixteenth-century beggar imagery (Manchester University Press, 2007). His other main area of interest is in the art of sixteenth century Venice (he published Tintoretto, Tradition and Identity in 1999). John Gash published a monograph on Caravaggio (1980; new edition, 2004) and is also interested in the spread of the painter’s influence throughout Europe.
Aberdeen also boasts research expertise in music of the period. Jasmin Cameron specialises on sacred Italian and German music of the late Baroque and Classical periods. David Smith is in demand as a speaker at conferences on early English, Flemish and Dutch keyboard music, specialising in the music of Peter Philips. He has published Philips’s complete keyboard music for Musical Britannica, and is working on an edition of his consort music for the same series while completing a monograph on the composer. Aberdeen has played host to a number of music conferences, most recently the Symposium of Early English Keyboards, which was centred around the Early English Organ Project, and copies of the Theewes harpsichord (by Malcolm Rose) and the AH virginal (by Darryl Martin).
Poland-Lithuania, the Baltic and Northeastern Europe
Danzig (with thanks to the permission of Aberdeen University Special Collections)
In the early modern period, Scotland, and in particular northeastern Scotland, had very close links, both economic and cultural, with the Baltic world. Tens of thousands of Scots passed through the Sound to trade or seek their fortune in northeastern Europe: Northern Germany, Scandinavia, Poland-Lithuania and, particularly in the eighteenth century, Russia. While the role of Scots such as Alexander Leslie, Patrick Gordon and William Keith in the establishment of Russian military power is well known, as is the military contribution of Scots to Sweden’s Age of Greatness - King Gustav Adolf claimed to know some Scots as well as English - the political parallels are less well known. For, with the notable exception of Russia, northeastern Europe was notable for its political unions and composite monarchies: the medieval Kalmar Union of Denmark, Norway and Sweden may finally have collapsed in 1523, but Denmark-Norway and Sweden-Finland remained composite political systems throughout the early modern period. The history of Poland-Lithuania, which formed a union of the Crowns in 1385 and a union of the parliaments in 1569, however, more closely paralleled the experience of Britain; its constitution was certainly much better known by early modern Scots than it is by their modern counterparts.
Both Robert Frost and Karin Friedrich are experts on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Frost, who is currently writing the Oxford History of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1815, has particular interests in the history of the Polish-Lithuanian parliamentary system, in particular under the Swedish Vasa dynasty (1587-1668), in royal power in the Polish-Lithuanian political system, and in consensual systems in early modern Europe. He is also interested in Scandinavian and Russian history, and in the social and political impact of warfare in the early modern period, reflected in his last book publication on the Northern Wars, 1558-1721. Karin Friedrich has published extensively on the history of Polish Prussia, on political ideas in east-central Europe, and on the problem of national identity in the early modern period. She is currently writing a history of the Prussian lands for Pearson.