Hutton’s Contemporaries and The Scottish Enlightenment

The Scottish Enlightenment was a period of intense intellectual productivity centred mostly on Edinburgh in the latter part of the eighteenth century (1760-1790). It is remarkable that the seeds of much western European thinking on economics, philosophy, sociology and science were sown in one location over this short period of time. Of the fifty or so individuals involved in this maelstrom of thought and experiment, the most illustrious and influential were Adam Smith, David Hume, Joseph Black and of course, James Hutton.

These were all highly learned and knowledgeable individuals, whose common aim was improvement of human knowledge and the human environment. While the Enlightenment has its roots in the seventeenth century and the beginnings of the development of a Scottish culture, it flowered unfettered by politics and religion; the centre of politics at the time was in Westminster (London), and the establishment of the Church of Scotland liberalised religious attitudes with the freer development of ideas.