The 18th-Century Common offers a public space for sharing the research of scholars who study eighteenth-century cultures with nonacademic readers.
We present short digests of our research in accessible, non-specialized language, along with links to original texts, objects, and images, as well as resources for further reading.
New posts appear below. You can explore topics in “Collections,” informal posts on our “Blog,” and descriptions of 18th-century material around the web at the “Gazette.” Click “Editors and Advisors” to browse by post author.
The 18th-Century Common is currently seeking contributions in the following areas:
- (For & Against) Cognitive Science and 18th-Century Studies
- New Directions in 18th-Century Feminist Studies: Developments of the Field in the Twenty-First Century
- The Age of Wonder: Science and the Arts in the 18th Century
- Rethinking the Intersections of Romantic-Age Literature & Science: New Approaches to Mary Shelley’s Representation of Science & Technology in Frankenstein
- Travel, Exploration, and Empire in the 18th-Century
See this post for more information.
What the Abyssinian Liar Can Tell us about True Stories: Knowledge, Skepticism, and James Bruce’s Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile
In 1773, James Bruce of Kinnaird returned to Europe after a decade of travel and study in North East Africa and Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). Initially, the knowledge he brought back with him was favorably received by notable figures like the great naturalist the Comte de Buffon, Pope Clement XIV, King Louis XV, and Dr. Charles Burney, ethnomusicologist, composter, and father of author Frances Burney. But as time went on, the public began to grow suspicious of some of his stories, such as his claims that he had eaten lion meat with a tribe in North Africa or that Abyssinian soldiers cut steaks from the rumps of live cows, then stitched the cows up again and sent them out to pasture.
Now that Scots have voted to remain with the United Kingdom, perhaps it is more appropriate to recognize that the vote was also held during the bicentennial of Walter Scott’s Waverley—a novel that at once celebrates a distinctively Scottish identity and defends the established Union as a valuable political arrangement. This complex statement of Scotland’s union with England has echoes in the referendum itself.
Within the records of the early United States War Department, amidst the pay receipts and accounts of treaty negotiations with Native American tribes, there are glimpses into the life of relatively ordinary Americans, many illiterate, who served their country during the war for Independence.