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The Scottish Town in the Age of the Enlightenment 1740-1820

Bob Harris, Charles McKean

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A pioneering study of 18th century Scottish urbanism: dynamic but different

This heavily illustrated and innovative study is founded upon personal documents, town council minutes, legal cases, inventories, travellers’ tales, plans and drawings relating to some 30 Scots burghs of the Georgian period. It establishes a distinctive history for the development of Scots burghs, their living patterns and legislative controls, and shows that the Scottish urban experience was quite different from other parts of Britain.

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About the Author

Bob Harris held a personal chair in British History at the University of Dundee until 2006, since when he has been Fellow and Tutor in History at Worcester College, University of Oxford. He has published widely on eighteenth-century British and Irish political, social and cultural history. His most recent book was The Scottish People and the French Revolution, published in 2008. Between 2011-14, he has been vice chair of the Board of the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford.

The late Charles McKean was Professor of Scottish Architectural History at the University of Dundee and considered the pre-eminent historian of Scottish buildings and towns. He is author of: The Scottish Thirties - an Architectural Introduction (Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, 1987); For a Wee Country: architectural contributions to Scotland since 1840 (RIAS, Edinburgh, 1990); Edinburgh Portrait of a City (Century, London, 1993) and The Making of the Museum of Scotland (NMS, Edinburgh, 2000).


'As a qualitative study of the physical space, architecture and planning of the Scottish town, this book is a major landmark not just in terms of research, but as a treasure-trove for the general reader seeking a clearer understanding of how Scottish society changed during this period.'

- Thomas Munck, University of Glasgow, Innes Review

'The work deftly brings together social history, economic history, architectural history, and Enlightenment studies to focus upon a wealth of material – architectural drawings and town plans, contemporary paintings and sketches, maps, burgh council minutes and committee records. The result is an important and substantial contribution to Scottish, and to British, urban history and historical geography and one that deserves to be read widely for its historiographical implications as much as for its argument and level of detail…a significant achievement and a fitting tribute to McKean's eclectic scholarship.'

- Charles W.J. Withers, University of Edinburgh, Journal of Historical Geography

'This is an outstanding work of scholarship: it revises the intellectual framework of urban history (including English urban history), and adds nuanced detail and interpretation to a number of Scottish towns which have been overlooked for far too long.'

- Richard Rodger, University of Edinburgh, English Historical Review
'Deeply researched, cogently written, and lavishly illustrated, The Scottish Town in the Age of the Enlightenment, 1740–1820 sets a new standard for the study of provincial urbanization in the eighteenth century.'
- Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, University of Chicago, Journal of Modern History

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