England was an outlier in the age of Enlightenment. It saw neither the emergence of an adversarial intelligentsia nor the rise of a new science of society. If there was an English Enlightenment, it was understated, unobtrusive and of a peculiarly conservative cast. These lectures approach the topic by way of eighteenth-century England’s acknowledged fascination with classical antiquity, focussing in particular on critical philology, pagan philosophical schools and ancient genres.

Lecture 1: Peculiarities

This lecture examines the phenomenon of English exceptionalism, in particular the historiographical commonplace that eighteenth-century England missed out on an Enlightenment, and the reasons given for that. However, it will also look at J.G.A. Pocock’s attempts to insert a conservative English variant within a family of European Enlightenments.