of the Modern World
1750 Scotland was much as it had ever been - a poor rural country
ruled by its nobles. In two generations the Scottish Enlightenment
changed all that, transforming Scotland into a modern capitalist
of the Modern World
From a modern perspective the Enlightenment seems a huge leap into
the unknown. To those who lived through it, like Sir Walter Scott,
it was like those who drift down the stream of a deep and
smooth river, we are not aware of the progress we have made, until
we fix our eye on the now distant point from which we have drifted.
an age of ideas, big ideas, which unleashed revolutionary changes
in Scottish society and created the modern world we all recognise
today. Two kindred forces were behind the change: The Industrial
Revolution and the Enlightenment.
The Industrial Revolution saw Scotlands rural, agricultural
economy overtaken by the rapid expansion of industry. Iron and coal
production was increased massively, whilst traditional industries
like linen weaving were efficiently mechanised. The age of factory
work was born and Scotlands trade reached out across the Atlantic
to the developing markets of the New World. In transportation, the
canals allowed far larger quantities of raw materials to be moved
more efficiently, whilst the harnessing of steam to power locomotives
and ships accelerated trade and induced a second wave of industrialisation.
Each new inovation made possible a hundred more and history seemed
to accelerate at an increasingly alarming pace.
It was a time of questioning, of creating new theoretical structures
with which to understand the world. It was also a time when the
free exchange of these new theories and ideas was permitted, and
this freedom was crucial to the movement which became known as the
discovered that the Earth was millions of years old and developed
a practical form of geology. Adam Smith analysed the market economy
and wrote the handbook of modern capitalism - The Wealth of Nations.
Most controversially of all, David Hume challenged orthodox religious
however, wasnt simply the preserve of intellectuals, academics,
the wealthy and the powerful. The Calvinist Kirks focus on
reading the Bible ensured that Scotland was one of the most literate
societies anywhere in the late 18th century.
People who could read had access to the new ideas of the Enlightenment.
centre of this intellectual revolution was a new scientific and
rational approach to knowledge. There was a belief that reason could
solve any problem and that through human ingenuity the riches of
the Earth could be exploited for the benefit of mankind. Above all
improvement was the leitmotif of the Enlightenment.
BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.