The critical and historical debate on Scotland’s involvement and role within the British Empire is still ongoing, owing to the country’s experience of ‘internal colonialism’ from 1707 onwards. In this context, the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment – particularly on race and on the ‘progress’ of societies across different stages – seem either to endorse or, on the contrary, confute the ideological assets constituting imperial politics. As a reflection of this complex national predicament marked by tensions and contradictions, the literature of the period often becomes a vehicle for expressing the individual need to negotiate between a defence of the liberal principles of the Enlightenment and the direct involvement in colonial undertakings. The article focuses on John Leyden, a Scottish writer whose life and works exemplify such complex negotiations in the British Empire. Scott’s protégé John Leyden was a member of a group of scholars that, in an article in 1982, Jane Rendall collectively defined as “Scottish orientalists”, writers on India connected with the University of Edinburgh (between 1784 and 1803), and followers of Stewart’s Scottish social theory and its affiliation with Adam Smith’s philosophy. Leyden went out to India as an assistant surgeon in 1803, but his expertise in Oriental languages won him a post in 1807 as professor of Hindustani in the College of Fort William, and as secretary of the Asiatic Society founded by Sir William Jones. The article aims to show how Leyden’s apparently genuine interest in Oriental culture and languages is based on Millar’s and Smith’s ideas on the “scale of civilization”, and how these ideas are often used to justify the British presence in India.

A Scottish Migrant in India: John Leyden, Between Enlightenment and Orientalism / Angeletti, Gioia. - In: LA QUESTIONE ROMANTICA. - ISSN 1125-0364. - 10:1-2(2019), pp. 37-51.

A Scottish Migrant in India: John Leyden, Between Enlightenment and Orientalism

gioia angeletti
2019-01-01

Abstract

The critical and historical debate on Scotland’s involvement and role within the British Empire is still ongoing, owing to the country’s experience of ‘internal colonialism’ from 1707 onwards. In this context, the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment – particularly on race and on the ‘progress’ of societies across different stages – seem either to endorse or, on the contrary, confute the ideological assets constituting imperial politics. As a reflection of this complex national predicament marked by tensions and contradictions, the literature of the period often becomes a vehicle for expressing the individual need to negotiate between a defence of the liberal principles of the Enlightenment and the direct involvement in colonial undertakings. The article focuses on John Leyden, a Scottish writer whose life and works exemplify such complex negotiations in the British Empire. Scott’s protégé John Leyden was a member of a group of scholars that, in an article in 1982, Jane Rendall collectively defined as “Scottish orientalists”, writers on India connected with the University of Edinburgh (between 1784 and 1803), and followers of Stewart’s Scottish social theory and its affiliation with Adam Smith’s philosophy. Leyden went out to India as an assistant surgeon in 1803, but his expertise in Oriental languages won him a post in 1807 as professor of Hindustani in the College of Fort William, and as secretary of the Asiatic Society founded by Sir William Jones. The article aims to show how Leyden’s apparently genuine interest in Oriental culture and languages is based on Millar’s and Smith’s ideas on the “scale of civilization”, and how these ideas are often used to justify the British presence in India.
A Scottish Migrant in India: John Leyden, Between Enlightenment and Orientalism / Angeletti, Gioia. - In: LA QUESTIONE ROMANTICA. - ISSN 1125-0364. - 10:1-2(2019), pp. 37-51.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11381/2852499
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