John Millar and the Scottish Enlightenment

BookJohn Millar and the Scottish Enlightenment

John Millar and the Scottish Enlightenment

Family Life and World History

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2017:03


March 7th, 2017

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During the long eighteenth century the moral and socio-political dimensions of family life and gender were hotly debated by intellectuals across Europe. John Millar, a Scottish law professor and philosopher, was a pioneer in making gendered and familial practice a critical parameter of cultural difference. His work was widely disseminated at home and abroad, translated into French and German and closely read by philosophers such as Denis Diderot and Johann Gottfried Herder. Taking Millar’s writings as his basis, Nicholas B. Miller explores the role of the family in Scottish Enlightenment political thought and traces its wider resonances across the Enlightenment world.
John Millar’s organisation of cultural, gendered and social difference into a progressive narrative of authority relations provided the first extended world history of the family. Over five chapters that address the historical and comparative models developed by the thinker, Nicholas B. Miller examines contemporary responses and Enlightenment-era debates on polygamy, matriarchy, the Amazon legend, changes in national character and the possible futures of the family in commercial society. He traces how Enlightenment thinkers developed new standards of evidence and crafted new understandings of historical time in order to tackle the global diversity of family life and gender practice. By reconstituting these theories and discussions, Nicholas B. Miller uncovers hitherto unexplored aspects of the Scottish contribution to European debates on the role of the family in history, society and politics.

(Translation of German review)
'Miller's John Millar and the Scottish Enlightenment- Family Life and World History is an exciting study that is convincingly engaged in several important topics of Enlightenment research: the creation of knowledge, the beginning of a global historiography, and is focused on a single Enlightenment figure whose work was already described by Nicholas B. Miller's predecessors as a forerunner of modern sociology.'
- Bettina Burger, DAS ACHTZEHNTE JAHRHUNDERT: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur die Erforschung des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts 

‘Intellectual historians have begun to pay increasing attention to the richness and subtlety of early modern discussions of gender and familial relations, and this book represents a significant contribution to that enterprise […] those interested in wider Enlightenment investigations into the global and temporal diversity of human sexual, marital, and familial practices will find much of interest in this stimulating book.'

Iain McDaniel, Journal of Modern History

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of illustrations10
Chapter 1. Polygamy: an adversary of Enlightenment42
Chapter 2. Before patriarchy: maternal power in primitive societies84
Chapter 3. The Amazons and the fringes of enlightened thought124
Chapter 4. Race, conquest and the family: Enlightenment assessments of the domestic order of colonial Spanish America160
Chapter 5. Family and state after the rise of the individual: John Millar’s reforms for commercial society192
Bibliography of works cited230