Sunday, October 23, 2005

Good News on Adam Smith Awareness

Something is definitely stirring about Adam Smith in Scotland this year. Consider:

• news that an offer was made to donate £10,000 to clean up the site of Adam Smith’s grave an embarrassing eye sore for many years);

• news that a statue of Adam Smith is to be erected by private subscription in the High Street, opposite where he worked from 1778 until just before he died in 1790 as a Commissioner of Customs, and a few hundred yards from where he lived in Panmure Close, off the High Street;

• news that a “Literary Trail”, celebrating the many authors of Edinburgh is started,including places of note related to Adam Smith;

• suggestion from the Carnegie Trust, New York, that Visit Scotland, the tourist agency,should market Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment (1740-1790), rather than heather, kilts, ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Brigadoon’ type themes;

• the new further education college, formed in Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy (birth place of Adam Smith), is named ‘The Adam Smith College’ (;

and today:

• Andrew Marr, a top flight print and television journalist is to make for the BBC a feature prpgramme (at last!) on the Scottish Enlightenment, featuring both Adam Smith and David Hume (its leading exponents and contributors).

(Modesty, of course, requires that I do not mention the publication in March of ‘Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy’ – hence, I won’t!)

News of Andrew Marr’s programme is announced by William Lyons, Arts Correspondent, in today’s Scotland on Sunday: 'We should open our eyes to our Enlightenment'. (

“THEY were the finest intellectuals of their time whose thinking has influenced the world ever since.

The leading lights of the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment - such as David Hume and Adam Smith - laid down the founding principles on which many societies are based even now. But the valuable legacy of one of the greatest gatherings of minds in history is now being ignored despite their many achievements, according to one of Britain's best-known broadcasters.
Andrew Marr, the former BBC political editor, who is making a feature-length documentary on the Enlightenment for BBC Four, says too often it has "been pushed to one side" in favour of other periods of history such as the "Tudors" or certain glamorous "aspects of war".

Marr, who presents the flagship Sunday AM programme, said: "It is terribly sad. Edinburgh [during the Enlightenment] is a tiny little place where there is a small group of argumentative, ferociously competitive, hard-drinking, brilliant men.

"It's a bit like the moment when the French Impressionists discover each other in Paris or the moment when Shakespeare and the other great dramatists suddenly congregate in London over a period of 10 years and change world literature. Yet it is an absolutely crucial period that has been underplayed by television and film.

"When I was a student in Scotland you were expected to know about it and yet it has probably faded from people's thinking now."

The Scottish Enlightenment refers to a 60-year period in the 18th century when Scotland was benefiting from the prosperity brought by free trade within the British Empire and the introduction the first public education in Europe since classical times.

Within this period, a number of academics and philosophers including Hume, Smith, Adam Ferguson and William Robertson wrote a number of seminal works on moral philosophy, history and economics.

They gave rise to the notion of free markets, democracy under the rule of law, and individual human happiness as the measure of a society's success.
Marr said: "It [the Enlightenment] is clearly the foundation of the modern world. Almost everything we are arguing about at the moment - whether it's the religious hatred law and free speech, immigration, the movement of peoples, goods and services and what that does to national identity, or the proper limits of the state - go back to the positions first set out in the Enlightenment."

Andrew Marr's programme, which will begin production early next year, will provide a part-dramatised history of the period of the Enlightenment, focusing on Scotland's capital."

(Read the full story in Scotland on Sunday:


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