Online talk: Ossianic History: James Macpherson (1736-1796), history writing, the Enlightenment and empire
26 October 2020, Starts: 17:30, Ends: 18:30
Ossianic History: James Macpherson (1736-1796), history writing, the Enlightenment and empire
Talk by Dr Jim MacPherson
Part of History Talks Live, from UHI Centre for History. Instructions for joining on UHI Centre for History website
While James Macpherson (1736-1796) remains (in)famous for his collection, editing and translating of Ossianic tales in the mid-eighteenth century, few take note of his lucrative later career as an historian. This talk examines the extensive range of James Macpherson’s history writing, from his Introduction to the History of Great Britain and Ireland (1771) to The History and Management of the East India Company (1779). In these works, Macpherson wrote firmly in the mode of Enlightenment history writing, building on approaches to narrative and analytical reflection developed earlier in the eighteenth century by David Hume and refined during the 1770s by Edward Gibbon. These tropes and techniques of Enlightenment history writing were shaped significantly by the imperial context in which Macpherson was writing during the 1770s, and this paper concludes with a brief discussion of how Macpherson’s work in empire (from the American Colonies to being an agent for the Nawab of Arcot in the Carnatic region of India) influenced the way in which he wrote about the past.