Book Chapter




Macleod E (2015) Revolution. In: Garrett A & Harris J (eds.) Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century. Volume 1: Morals, Politics, Art, Religion. A History of Scottish Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 361-403.

This chapter discusses the views of the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers on the right to resist government in principle and on the revolutions which took place in America and France in the later eighteenth century. It argues that, although these writers have often been thought of as relatively politically and socially conservative, they did not retreat from their conviction that the right to resist government was legitimate as a last resort, as so many conservative Whigs in Britain did when presented with the crises in Britain’s American colonies and in France. While they expressed a spectrum of views on both revolutions, ranging from disapproval to moderate sympathy, they retained their fundamental optimism regarding the progress of human society, and they maintained their belief that moderate constitutional reform and resistance to tyranny were justifiable, even in the face of the upheaval caused to Britain by these two revolutions.

revolution; resistance; Scottish Enlightenment; America; France; progress; liberty; rights; 1776-1815

Title of seriesA History of Scottish Philosophy
Publication date31/03/2015
PublisherOxford University Press
Publisher URL
Place of publicationOxford

People (1)


Dr Emma Macleod

Dr Emma Macleod

Senior Lecturer, History