The Ancients, Neoclassicism, and the Age of Enlightenment in 18th Century Great Britain

It is evident that throughout history fashion trends seem to come and go with the ever changing world—and yet, many of these fads also make their way back into everyday life. For the past few years now, for example, I have noticed that all things “vintage”—that is, fashion trends from the 1950s in particular have been recycled and reintroduced into our culture today. There have been countless times when I have come across the bold red lipstick, the winged jet black eyeliner, the greaser hair, and polka dot dresses. Many people of this era seem to dig all things retro.

This phenomenon of fashion recycling can also be said for individuals living in the period of the Enlightenment which occurred in the late 17th century as well as the 18th century in Great Britain. During the Enlightenment (also termed as the Age of Reason), many people began to embrace modernity and it was a period of huge advancements in science of which also included art. It was around this time that Neoclassicism as a visual art began to flourish which was inspired from the fashion trends of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

Certainly, neoclassical architecture can be seen both in London and in Edinburgh. For example, in London this style can be seen on buildings such as The Bank of England, The Royal Exchange, The British Museum, and Somerset House. Similarly, this architectural fashion can also be seen in Edinburgh—predominately in the New Town. Much of the buildings in New Town, including the Scottish National Gallery, The Dome, The Royal Scottish Academy, The City Chambers (which included the former Royal Exchange) and The National Monument on Calton Hill which gained Edinburgh the nickname, “The Athens of the North”. All of these buildings were constructed around the time of the Enlightenment.


Buildings in London in the Neoclassical style. Photos from Google images.


Buildings in Edinburgh in the Neoclassical Style. Photos from Google images.

The neoclassical style seemed to be a constant theme not only in class, but also during many of our trips both around London and Edinburgh. For example, when we visited Soane’s House in London he had a whole room dedicated to Greco-Roman sculptures and as an architect he seemed to be very much inspired by their architecture as well (Soane is known for his design of The Bank of England). Also, while in his home I noticed that he had a picture hanging up of the Roman colosseum.


It is easy to see how her hair, accessories, and clothing resemble that of Ancient Greek fashion. Photo from

Moreover, while at the Georgian House in Edinburgh’s New Town, it was interesting to learn that not only were individuals obsessed with the architectural design of the ancient Greeks and Romans—they were also invested in Greco-Roman inspired dress, hair, and accessories near the end of the Enlightenment era. Women wore loose and flowing dresses and men began wearing much simpler style of clothing. Both men and women’s hairstyles resembled that of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Why was Great Britain so obsessed with Ancient Greece and Rome as well as all things neoclassical? I believe that there is more than one definite answer to this question. First of all—let’s start with Ancient Greece. This particular country has always been regarded as the haven and the center of philosophical knowledge with famous figures such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Of course, those who studied Philosophy had to go back and draw from these figures as a foundation for their studies before they could move on to newer ideas. Also, when thinking about Socrates in particular, many could certainly think of him as being self-governed, skeptical, and well…enlightened. Thus, it can be argued that much of what Socrates did could be reminiscent of the Age of Reason. While reading Sir Richard Steele’s accounts of an 18th century coffeehouse, he talks a lot about the ancient Grecian named Eubulus. In this reading, Steele stated:

Eubulus presides over the middle Hours of the Day, when this Assembly of Men meet together… His Wisdom and Knowledge are serviceable to all that think fit to make use of them; and he does the office of a Council, a Judge, an Executor, and a Friend to all his Acquaintance, not only without the Profits which attend such Offices, but also without the Deference and Homage which are usually paid to them. The giving of Thanks is displeasing to him. The greatest Gratitude you can shew him is to let him see you are the better Man for his Services; and that you are as ready to oblige others, as he is to oblige you.

I felt like this description of Eubulus sounded a lot like how Socrates spread wisdom and knowledge to all of those who would listen to become free and self-governed thinkers.

In terms of Ancient Rome, things can get a bit more complicated. Ancient Rome was a part of The Roman Empire back in 27 BC and from roughly 43—410 AD, Great Britain was ruled by this empire. But—as many of us already know, eventually The Roman Empire collapsed. So why would 18th century Great Britain be so inspired by a civilization that eventually crumbled away? I believe that part of this is because they perhaps did not think that they were the next Romans, but that they descended from the Romans and that they were essentially better than the Romans. After all, Ancient Rome did not have the luxury of having the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason on their side. Great Britain during the 18th century not only wanted to become the next center of the world just as Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece were—they wanted to draw inspiration from them, but at the same time they wanted to be better than the “greats”.


Many Neoclassical buildings in Great Britain resemble that of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The most common feature that perhaps is most noticeable are the columns. Photo from Google images.


18th century Great Britain was also influenced by Ancient Roman architecture. Architect Sir John Soane in particular really loved the Colosseum in Rome. Photo from Google images.

Furthermore, during the Enlightenment which was certainly a time of momentous change and a time to become more modern, oddly enough the recycling of classical architecture into the style of “neoclassical” could be seen as more modern. In particular, I remember comparing Edinburgh’s Old Town and its New Town. The Old Town certainly appeared much more archaic and medieval than that of the New Town. While the Old Town looked more so randomly put together and a mish mash of different styled buildings, the New Town has structure, order, and symmetry. The National Monument definitely has these qualities and can be seen as Scotland trying to legitimize and compete with England—a message to say that the Scottish are just as intelligent and are just as much enlightened as the English.


Edinburgh’s Old Town. Photo from Google images.


Edinburgh’s New Town. Photo from Google images.

Another issue that comes into play in terms of London is the discussion of the Great Fire in 1666 which quickly destroyed many homes since much of them were built of wood with straw roofs. It is easy to imagine just how fast the fire spread from one building to another. This fire saw the opportunity to make London a new and much more modern looking city. Certainly, if the Enlightenment saw a new way of thinking about the world, the neoclassical architecture of London was sure to match this. New ways of thinking should be accompanied with new styles of buildings as well as new fashions (of which, as mentioned before really was not completely new, but instead merely a recycled version of old fashions).

In short, it seemed that Great Britain at the time of the Enlightenment had a love-hate relationship with things that were archaic. This takes me back to our very first reading in class which was Thomas Sprat’s “The History of the Royal Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge (1667).” In this reading, Sprat discusses this love-hate relationship with the ancients and recognizes that they cannot be controlled and dependent upon the ancients, but there should be a level of respect present. He argued against individuals who thought that they should follow in the footsteps of the ancients:

What kind of behavior do they exact from us in this case? That we should reverence the footsteps of antiquity? That we should subscribe to their sense before our own? We are willing in probabilities, but we cannot in matters of fact; for in them we follow the most ancient author of all others, even nature itself. Would they have us make our eyes behold things at no farther distance than they saw? That is impossible, seeing we have the advantage of standing upon their shoulders…We approach the ancients, as we behold their tombs, with veneration—but we would not therefore be confined to live in them altogether, nor would (I believe) any of those who profess to be most addicted to their memories (148).

In this quote, Sprat made more than one important point. First, he acknowledged that we are all confined to our period of time—we cannot go back to the past nor can we travel to the future—we are confined by our present. And second, he recognized the argument that the ancients would want them to submit to their past accomplishments is false because the ancients themselves were progressing as much as they could—therefore, Sprat believed that they should also progress instead of looking back to the ancients for all of the answers.

Although I absolutely loved the whole study abroad trip—my most favorite days going to West Bay in Dorset, England as well as the Hairy Coo Tour while in Scotland—I will definitely say that I enjoyed observing all of the beautiful architecture that both London and Edinburgh offered and it really connected me to our readings in class and I began to really understand the history and significance behind the different architectural styles. Now that I have observed all of the neoclassical architecture in these two cities, I can also make the connection that many of the buildings in Washington DC have these similar styles. I just find it so fascinating how we seem to constantly recycle fashions and styles of the past, but that we still somehow make them our own just as those in the 18th century did, using Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome as inspiration.

Chelsea Ray-Dye 


Final Blog Post

Throughout visiting the cities of London and Edinburgh, it is obvious that they have vast differences. Today, London is much more a city of business and finance than Edinburgh is. This difference is one that dates back to the eighteenth century and before. In the eighteenth century, London was a city full of wealth and luxury whereas the quality of life in Edinburgh was pretty much entirely the opposite. However, these differences are seen because of the varying beliefs that the two cultures possess, one viewing luxury as a means to succeed and the other viewing luxury as unnecessary and possibly corrupt. In this way, London was able to be more advanced than Edinburgh was in some ways.

The London portion of The Expedition of Humphry Clinker began with a letter from Matt Bramble. In this letter the reader can see how much Bramble despises the modernization of the city of London. With the language he uses, the reader can see the negativity he has towards this change. He writes how the luxury of the city has ruined the country as he explains, “the tide of luxury has swept all the inhabitants from the open country” (87). He describes that farmers and lower class countrymen look towards the city for excitement and entertainment, working in the city and neglecting their farms. In this way, the country actually is in decline as the city grows and excels. However, Bramble does say that the city has turned into a place of “no distinction or subordination” (87) as countrymen infiltrate and become part of the city life. In a way they are all blind to the monotony of the daily city routine and business, simply following and copying others. Bramble finds this to be despicable and it has caused him to hate a city he once loved. This coincides with the way some of the foreign travelers in Saussure’s “Visitors to London.” These travelers seem surprised by how well the lower class people are accepted in London and as one traveler says “he treats him as his equal” (601). This proves Bramble’s point of no distinction between classes in London at the time.

Though luxury in London was viewed by some as a negative thing, drawing in lower-class individuals, it in fact helped London to surpass Edinburgh in many ways. In the Edinburgh portion of Humphry Clinker, the reader can see Lieutenant Lismahogo’s view on wealth clearly. However, it is easy to see throughout his description of the Scottish way of life that Scotland is much different in its prioritization of wealth, which is central to the English idea of luxury. In his discourse with Bramble and Melford’s uncle he is insulted by the idea of advancing in ranks simply because of wealth instead of by honor. Later on he states “poverty was a blessing to a nation” (210) indicating his appreciation for living without the English luxuries and instead depending on one’s self and living off the land. This view can be connected to “A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland” in the passage about the Highlanders where “the wealth of mountains is cattle” showing that wealth is measured by land, cattle, and treasures of the land.

Lieutenant Lismahogo also goes on to describe the complete disregard for English ideas of luxury as he describes the dress of a certain woman stating that “the simplicity of their manners, nor the commerce of their country, would admit of those articles of luxury which are deemed magnificence in Europe; and that they were too virtuous and sensible to encourage the introduction of any fashion which might help to render them corrupt and effeminate” (194-195). In a way the Scottish view English luxury as a mode to corruption and is simply unnatural.

Soane's House

Soane’s House

In order to prove the differences between London and Edinburgh, it is necessary to compare the ideas from the texts to particular places that the class has visited in the two cities. First of all, Soane’s House is an example one of the more wealthy homes in London. Though this house cannot serve as an example of a common upper class, it does show that the idea of luxury is completely acceptable in the London culture. Soane obviously was a very wealthy man who could afford to purchase countless artifacts as a sort of treasure. In this way, he is proving that having wealth enables a man to have these luxuries that cannot be seen in homes throughout Edinburgh. Soane possessed a very extensive collection from the room of paintings that seemed endless with the way they were displayed to the ancient stones and sculptures that lined his walls. Some may call Soane the ultimate hoarder; however, he simply demonstrates how luxurious London life can be as he develops an extensive collection in his home.

Gladstone's Land

Gladstone’s Land

Moving on to the city of Edinburgh, the class visited Gladstone’s Land. This house was definitely a stark contrast to Soane’s House seen in London. In Gladstone’s Land, one can see how someone living there is much more limited by the size of the house, the economy, and the culture as well. Where Soane had the ability to afford such luxuries in England, the residents of Gladstone’s Land did not have the same opportunity. Though this was a more wealthy home of Edinburgh, it pales in comparison to Soane’s House. It can be seen that it was a more wealthy Edinburgh home because the flat was higher than ground level which proved the wealth of the inhabitants. Also, the painted ceilings showed that the family was able to travel because of the obscure fruits detailed on the ceiling. Most people in Edinburgh would have no idea what a pineapple is, but yet it was painted on the ceiling leading one to believe that the inhabitant of Gladstone’s Land saw it with his own eyes. Though the family was possibly wealthy, they were still confined to one level of the building, whereas Soane had access to an entire house. The inhabitants of Gladstone’s Land only had three rooms in which to conduct their lives. However, this way of living was entirely normal to the people of Edinburgh, which goes to prove their lack of desire or want for luxuries.

Throughout observing both of these great cities, it is obvious how accepting luxuries of London was very beneficial in developing this city. On the other hand, Edinburgh did not have access to these luxuries and obviously struggled as a city throughout the eighteenth century. As a tourist signs of this difference can be seen today as well. In visiting Soane’s House and Gladstone’s Land, it was interesting to compare these two dwellings, one obviously taken over by the results of London luxury and the other simply existing blindly in every day routine.

National Identity

National Identity

Our trip to London and Edinburgh was an amazing travel experience. I felt my self-confidence mounting with every new food I tried and new street I explored on my own, and it was a great lesson in patience and preparedness – those necessary virtues for any traveler. However, as exciting as the actual travel was, we had to remember that it was also a study abroad experience…which means we couldn’t completely abandon the first four weeks of the class that we spent in our Wiekamp Hall classroom at IUSB. Thanks to our pre-departure intellectual preparation, it wasn’t only on paper in the classroom that I saw many of the trends in British culture that we discussed. Because we had learned about the commercialization and urbanization in the 18th century Britain, the rise of the middle class, the increase in tourism and other entertainments, and the political culture surrounding the union of England and Scotland, I discerned in modern London and Scotland elements of many of these Enlightenment-era social constructs. There seemed to be a particular thread that tied the past to the present, I think: national attitude. Through the written accounts that we read in class, I developed a sense that England and Scotland seemed to have their own particular personalities comprised of how the people of each country feel about themselves as a nation, and how they view their country in relation to other countries. After traveling there, I feel as though some of the most important elements of those national attitudes haven’t changed in the last 300-something years.

During the 1700s Enlightenment period, England became a leader in international trade and earned its place as a world power. This led to the development of a strong middle class comprised of tradesmen and craftsmen, and a general increase in the prosperity of the middle class. The intellectual culture of London hearkened back to Classical Greece and Rome, aided by the increase in manufacture of inexpensive books, coffee house culture where men could gather and discuss ideas, and an obsession with collecting and cataloguing by members of the middle and upper-middle class. This Classical movement was reflected in the arts, the fashions and the architecture of the city. All of these dramatic changes created a sort of national self-importance in the English population; they envisioned themselves as the modern Roman Empire, and a country that was superior to less “civilized” nations. Joseph Addison, the founder and co-author of the periodical publication entitled The Spectator, lauded the new commercial London in periodical #69, claiming that London was “a kind of emporium for the whole earth,” and that he felt like a “citizen of the world” when he visited the Royal Exchange. Writers like Hume, Johnson, and Dodsley wrote essays about the arts, the English language, and the newly established British Museum. They believed in the “heightened civilization” of the English, established through an escape from ignorance, the improvement of society thanks to the arts, and the desire for English to be spoken “properly,” that is, the same way in every English-speaking part of the world. England established colonies internationally, expanding her influence and establishing her sovereignty.

Scotland, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have quite such lofty goals. While Edinburgh was eventually nicknamed “the Athens of the North” because of its fashionable New Town and its vigorous intellectual culture, this was largely due to English influence. Elsewhere in Scotland, Scots just wanted to be left to their own devices. They had an established monarchy, long-held traditions, and a particular culture that they wanted to preserve, as a member of Scotland’s Peerage, Lord Belhaven, argued in his 1706 speech against

Stirling Castle; changed hands 13 times in 30 years in the fight over who was in charge of Scotland. Photo taken by me.

Stirling Castle; changed hands 13 times in 30 years in the fight over who was in charge of Scotland. Photo taken by me.

the union of England and Scotland. He was afraid of Scotland’s losing her own sovereignty, of “a free and independent Kingdom delivering up that, which all the World hath been fighting for since the Days of Nimrod.” He worried that Scottish people would lose their right to manage their own affairs, that they would be dragged down by English taxes and laws, that the Scottish nobility would be stripped of their powers…essentially, he claimed, those who agreed to the union were betraying their “Mother Caledonia” and all the rights and heritage that came with being Scottish. Regardless of Belhaven’s dissent, the union happened: England and Scotland became one nation, Great Britain, in 1707. Following the union, England seeped into Scotland; Englishmen like Robert Southey who jumped on the tourism wagon visited places like Edinburgh and Loch Katrine and looked down his nose at the parts of them that weren’t “English enough.” He called Edinburgh’s High Street “odd and characteristic,” and the closes that we found fascinating on the trip “Windes down which an English eye may look, but into which no English nose would willing venture” (granted, they probably did smell TERRIBLE with all the waste and smoke and refuse in the streets). He criticized the scenery in the Highlands, and though he scoffed at the Scots’ agricultural practices, he grudgingly admitted that with the increase in English homes replacing Highland cabins and the eradication of “wild beasts,” Scotland was “improving” and becoming more “civilized.”

Scotland, despite (or maybe because of) their partnership with England, has managed to retain a very strong national pride. Now, I don’t have anything against England and I absolutely loved it while I was there, but I tend to root for the underdogs. I’m no economist, so maybe the union was a good thing for Scotland that way, but based on what I learned over there, Scotland and England share a…friendly rivalry…and I think the thirst for independence is as strong as ever.

I had the fortune of being able to visit and compare the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, and the first difference that glared out at me was the name of each establishment. The British

British Museum. Photo by me.

British Museum. Photo by me.

Museum and the National Museum of Scotland. The British Museum didn’t have any exhibits that focused directly on Britain or England itself; rather, there were huge exhibits on many geographical areas of the world, and England was lumped in with the Department of Prehistory and Europe. It contained many important, famous (albeit disputed) artifacts from around the world, establishing it as a leader in the world’s history museums. In the Scottish Museum, on the other hand, I strolled through six floors of Scottish history, from the earliest geological formations to modern culture. Yes, the NMS has international exhibits too, but a six-floor exhibit dedicated to the national culture is a pretty strong sign of a desire to continue cultivating an individual national identity. My favorite part of the exhibit was on the top floor, in the part about modern Scotland. There were a few seats in front of a big screen where I rested for a few minutes and watched a video on “what it means to be Scottish.” In a few very succinct sentences, people summed it up, using words like “friendly,” “gregarious,” “stubborn,”

National Museum of Scotland. Photo from Google Image Search.

National Museum of Scotland. Photo from Google Image Search.

“hardworking,” “passionate,” and “forthright.” Based on my experiences, these were all true; while in London people seemed to very much mind their own business, Scots would stop on the streets to talk to you, and they were loud when they were singing bar songs downstairs in Bar50… J When the participants in the video interview were asked whether they identified as Scottish or British, every single one of them said Scottish first, British second. One man on the video said that Scottish people have “rediscovered [their] national identity, and the best is yet to come.”

Another clue to the England-Scotland power dynamic was hidden in the sparkles of the Crown Jewels of each country. I had the good fortune to see both sets of Crown Jewels, and, while standing in line forever, to

English Crown Jewels. Photo from Google Image Search.

English Crown Jewels. Photo from Google Image Search.

read the information posted in the exhibits. The story of England’s Crown Jewels are pretty straightforward, except for the upheaval surrounding the execution of Charles I and the melting down of the symbols of royalty under the power of Cromwell. New ones were fashioned for the crowning of Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy. Scotland’s Honours, on the other hand, have an interesting history that further explains the country’s ongoing “good-natured” resentment toward the English. The earliest piece, and possibly most important, of Scotland’s set is a huge lump of unimpressive sandstone called either the Stone of Scone or the Stone of Destiny. The monarchs of Scotland were seated upon this stone when they were crowned; in fact, the Stone of Destiny predates the use of the crown in Scottish history. The use of the Stone symbolized a connection to the land and a loyalty to the Scottish heritage. England and Scotland have fought over this stone for something like 700 years; for a long time it was kept beneath the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey for use during English coronations. Some Scottish students stole the Stone in the 1950’s as a demonstration of Nationalist pride, and it was returned to England after about four months after being accidentally broken and fixed with a metal rod through the middle. It is rumored that a quote from the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath is inscribed

Scotland's National Honours. Photo from Google Image Search.

Scotland’s National Honours. Photo from Google Image Search.

upon that metal rod: “For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.” Of course, no one wants to snap open the Stone again to see if that’s true. As a gesture of goodwill, Queen Elizabeth II returned the Stone to Scotland in 1996 (generous?). The use of the other pieces of the Scottish National Honours was discontinued after the 1707 union, considered redundant (the English Jewels are sparklier…).

I learned these things from my tour guide, Mahrie, on my Wednesday tour to Loch Ness. She also spoke a little bit about the referendum last year, the vote to determine whether Scotland would become an independent nation or not. As we all know (hopefully), the vote was close, but the “no’s” won out and

A crowd supporting "Yes Scotland," the movement for independence. Photo from Google Image Search

A crowd supporting “Yes Scotland,” the movement for independence. Photo from Google Image Search

Scotland is still part of the UK. However, the call for independence remains strong, as it has for hundreds of years, and a big reason that people voted “no” was because of oil. Scotland produces a significant amount of oil that is worth plenty of money; unfortunately for them, it is in English control, and if they were to separate the two nations, they would lose out on a LOT of money. They are working on developing sustainable energy, though, so in the future, who knows…? Anyway, from both Mahrie and our Loch Katrine tour guide, Andrew, I picked up on some very strong national pride and some friendly prods directed toward the English. These sentiments are residual from hundreds of years of rivalry, and I have a feeling that they won’t end anytime soon.

The Intellect of Europe, 18th Century edition: England vs. Scotland

Schooling is something that most everybody must go through while growing up. Education is a key fundamental piece to growing up, whether we like it or not but there was once a time when education was only for the wealthy. Thankfully those days have been left in the past. Different assets of education were favored in London when compared to those favored in Scotland. The gentry of London preferred more literary intellect, whereas those in Scotland preferred the sciences. I am not saying that the Scottish did not also enjoy a good work of literature, they are the birth people of Sir Walter Scott, but they show a greater stress on the celebration of other areas of academia. London did also have their Royal Society, but they pay homage to great authors above all else.

Poet’s Corner- Westminster Abbey Google Image search

Intellect was always an important feature for people in England to have, especially those gifted in the ways of the pen (authors that is). This is evident by the Poets Corner within Westminster Abbey. Poets corner is a section of the abbey that is dedicated to memorials of a plethora of literary intellectuals. Some of the people memorialized within this area include William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Robert Southey, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Sir Walter Scott. Westminster Abbey is the place where English Royalty worship, get married, hold their coronations, have their funerals and for some even keep as their final resting place. In essence the Abbey is a place that was built by Royalty for Royalty, but there is a special place reserved for certain intellectuals. If an author is deemed well enough a memorial may be erected on the walls, or on the floor of Poets Corner for all to see.

Within the readings we did for class before our trip, we read selections from Tobias Smollet’s “The Exbedition of Humphry Clinker”. One of the sections that we read was when the party makes their way into London and whilst in London Jerry Melford spent one of his evenings in the company of a large group of authors. The fact that Smollet chooses to write about a large group of authors converging in London for a dinner party, helps to show that authors are an important group of people for the English. Mr. Melford spend his entire night with a group of unique and outlandish characters, all of whom are authors. It is just amazing to me that Smollet would spend around ten pages discussing one characters night with a group of authors. This goes to show me that their is a great importance on authors in London.

The main portion of John Soane’s book collection. Google Image search

As young gentlemen were on the tour of the continent, one of their destinations in London would be to John Soane’s house. Soane was a famous architect, one of his greatest accomplishments being the Bank of England. Within Soane’s house is a collection of items worthy of any museums. Soane’s collections ranged from books, to paintings including his own architectural designs, to moldings and pottery. Soane also had a sarcophagus in his downstairs. Soane is said to have a “Gentleman’s collection” when it comes to his books. While walking through his house one may see books located in almost every room. Within his displays of books, Soane has whole collections of books on architecture, encyclopedias, large tombs full of works by Wiliam Shakespeare, and many other books in a variety of languages.

Portrait of James Hutton by Sir Henry Raeburn Google Image search

For a long time Scotland’s history was passed down by word of mouth, or storytelling. They had bards that would travel around from castle to castle telling various stories pertaining to the history of Scotland. Even to this day the Scots are well suited to telling stories (As can be personally noted by myself due to the pleasure of taking a Hairy Coo tour with an amazing storytelling driver, Andrew). But the Scots take great importance in the other areas of academia, such as science. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has an entire exhibit dedicated to enlightenment. One of the portraits that stood out to me was a portrait of James Hutton, painted by Sir Henry Raeburn. Hutton is depicted as sitting without his wig in his studio surrounded by the tools used in his geologic research. I found the lack of wig important, it showed to me that he put aside the physical demands of society in order to work on his findings in geology. Science was a very important topic back then as it is now. People wanted to learn more about the world they lived in, and how things worked. People were so fascinated with the sciences that women would wear magnifying glasses around their wrists so that they may study anything interesting that may have crossed their path.

While reading Johnson’s “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” I believe I have found the reason why authors where not held as highly as other intellectuals. Johnson speaks about the storytelling of the Scots, and how he is told one story by one person, but then the next day he is told a different version of the same story by another person! How confusing it would have been to be told different versions of the same story and not know which one is true! No wonder they don’t write anything down! In all reality I do not truthfully know why authors are not held in as high regards as they are in England. What I do know is that both England and Scotland show great admiration for those who succeed in the world of academics.

I also know that by having the opportunity to travel to both of these beautiful countries has been life changing to me. Being able to visit the places that I had mentioned earlier in my blog, was amazing. I learned so much by going into Soane’s house and visiting Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait gallery,and all of the other destinations that we went to. It was all surreal and if I had the chance to do it again, I would in a heartbeat!

Documenting History

History has a variety of different definitions depending upon the culture and the context. One of the most important attributes to constituting history today is by the ways we can prove and document things that happened. We have these wonderful people called archaeologists and anthropologists that can dig in the dirt or find an abandoned place and use what was left there to guess what items were used for, and how that affected the lives of people long ago. Thankfully, over time people began to take this rigorous obsession with documenting their daily lives and historical events. But then again, we come to learn that documentation means a variety of different things to different people. In the U.S. we tend to think of documentation as physical proof, normally in the written form. This was part of the Enlightenment movement in England during the 17th century. Enlightenment refers to the period of time where a revolution, or maybe rather, a shift of thinking occurred. People began to ask more questions about science, religion, history, etc. In the British Museum, they managed to collect a variety of objects to reflect on the seven main categories of enlightenment.

• Religion and ritual
• Trade and discovery
• The birth of archaeology
• Art and civilization
• Classifying the world
• Ancient scripts
• The natural world

Trade may have been a main component that contributed to this revolution of thought. For instance, traders would bring strange objects to their homelands and people would buy them to try to understand them in relation to the world. This was not always true. Here is one example.
Soane was a huge collector of trade items, note the use of the word collector. He was not a historian, being he did not spend much time studying these items for historical purposes. Rather, he spent time collecting remains of old buildings because he believed that to understand and replicate a style of architecture (being that he was a very talented architect, this makes sense. His best known work is the Bank of England. He even designed his house in such a way that it was built around his collection. They do not allow photographs, so it is truly a marvel you have to see for yourself. Some of his collections are on display at the British Museum.

The British Museum took this theme of enlightenment and dedicated a whole room to this movement. The entire room and the entire museum; well, actually all museums, exist because of enlightenment’s effect on history and anthropology and how we today document history. In a reading by Dodsley about the management of the museum he said it was so full of items, but people did not have the particular information about these items they wanted to know. The management said the descriptions should be brief and low cost, but people apparently in general complained that their curiosity was unsatisfied. During the enlightenment people were almost overly curious about everything. So now, we have people perform extensive research on a variety of topics. We leave no stone unturned, and find an answer to every question that is both probable and exact.
We also went to the V & A Museum. I enjoyed this experience because instead of looking at artifacts, we mostly looked at historical and modern art. Because of this trip, I was able to more closely understand how trade effected style and fashion over the 1650’s-1800. It was interesting how collections, such as their giant ceramic collection, could easily be compared from one country to another. Thank goodness such important items from history could be saved and people could gather enough information for us today to have the greatest possible understanding.

No really these are not netty pots, but if it makes you happy to imagine pouring water through a 500+ year old kettle directly into your sinuses, be my guest.

No really these are not netty pots, but if it makes you happy to imagine pouring water through a 500+ year old kettle directly into your sinuses, be my guest.

Before this, the waters of the past were equally murky as they were interesting.

In Scottish culture, I can relate to this theme of storytelling because of my Native American heritage (what little of it I know of, unfortunately. So sad to see these traditions die). While Scotland has museums, they exist in what feels like a time capsule. Much like Soane’s house, there are places to visit that are preserved buildings and property of people from a few hundred years ago. But in a different sense, Soane’s house is treated like a private collection because there is not much known about his possessions.
With other places such as Gladstone’s Land and Georgian House, these places exist like a museum because specialists have been able to figure out what certain items were and what they were for… but unlike most museums, you will not see shelves decorated with memos and citations. You will not see signs directing you with time frames. You will instead see a person in a room with a name tag, and they will exist as your information box.

You walk into a room, and you might get a sheet of paper to read off of, but most likely they will just begin telling you a fantastic story about the room you are standing in, and perhaps focus on a bookshelf, a nail on the wall, the color of a plate, and explain its significance to that time period in relation to the world. The only way I can think to describe this experience is captivating. I learned later from our trip leaders that these people are paid volunteers that are given a box of files to learn about these rooms. So really you could point to a crack in the wall and ask what happened, and more likely than not they would know, and have a super neat story about it. That is simply incredible.

I know that my Amish background was very obvious as soon as I threw this on...

I know that my Amish background was very obvious as soon as I threw this on…

This is a newer form of storytelling that is a combination of the enlightenment documenting verses the oral tradition of passing down tales. Many cultures still practice these traditions, and even only a few hundred years ago, that was the main way people in Scotland kept record of history.

Johnson’s piece about his journey to the Western Scottish Isles discusses this experience of storytelling. When he hears a story, he understands what was said, but when he asks another person about the same story, he is confused because the story is treated in a different light. I think as a story teller, and even historians, have their bias when telling a story. We often tell stories in a light that we want people to see it in. His experience with storytelling is similar to mine in the way where if it is not really bias, it is perspective. From the top of a hill, a city seems small and I am the climber of the mountain.

Or you know, the great mountain faller...

Or you know, the great mountain faller…

From the bottom, it seems a mountain is a small rock in the middle of a great land. It is all about understanding.

"oooh oooh, we're halfway there..."

“oooh oooh, we’re halfway there…”

I was amazed about how I read these accounts other people had of the highlands… and while I was in awe, I was also in shock about how familiar it seemed to me. Not because of what I read from glamorous accounts of Wordsworth, but rather because “wow, it looks like someone slapped a body of water in the middle of Tennessee!” It’s what it reminded me of. I was not let down, but I think I expected something different being we had terrible plane delays and awful inconveniences with travel literally the entire trip. Maybe in the back of my mind I felt like Wordsworth’s sort of storytelling left me hanging, when if I wanted to see some mountains I could have gone a six hour drive south.

Alright it is pretty cool...

Alright it is pretty cool…

The important thing to recognize with this storytelling is that we still do a similar thing. Myself as a journalist, I am the middle man between a story teller and a document which we know today as news, but what will later serve as historical artifacts and documentation. People tell me what they saw happen, and I write it down and put it out in such a way that it captures important details that are both interesting and relevant to life today. Storytellers then, did a very similar thing, but did not have such a concept as mass media yet… so, no writing down and no newspaper.

It is important in this day and age to recognize the impact word of mouth does have, and how it is the way in which we shaped our history. So next time you share a memory at your family’s dinner table over the holidays, just remember that you are practicing art and history in its earliest forms. If you feel compelled, you may want to write it down… and it is okay if you write it the way you want it to be.

Final Blog

First, I would like to discuss is the architecture of the eighteenth century of London and Edinburgh. The place in London I will refer to is Soane’s House, which was Sir John Soane’s personal home. He was a famous architect and was part of the Royal Academy, and he was most known for his work of the Bank of England. Sir John Soane was quit the collector. In his home he had so many elaborate paintings, figurines, statues, books, and other antiquities. What stood out to me the most was how many Greco-Roman antiquities he had acquired, and to no surprise his work in architecture was very much inspired by this culture. What really stuck out to me was this huge marble sculpture of Apollo Belvedere made in 1718. He had a cape draped over him, a leaf covering his penis, and his right hand on a tree stump. Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures of our own, but I found this one on the internet that looks just like the one in Soane’s House. As you can see, it is very Greco-Roman as many other items in Sir John Soane’s collections were.

In Edinburgh, we visited Calton Hill that housed many monuments. One of them was the National Monument, also known as the Acropolis Monument, which was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Scotland of course would want to keep up with new looks that England was entering in. Oddly enough, this monument was never finished due to lack of funds and became a disgrace to Scotland. Both Sir John Soane’s architectural creations and the National Monument show how much the eighteenth century was inspired by the Greco-Roman era. It shows the movement into the Neoclassical Period. The architecture designs portray symmetry, organization, and order. The structures included the tall columns and altogether the look was very refined.

The National Monument Photo Property of Amanda Robinson

Secondly, I would like to discuss the middle and upper-class of the eighteenth century. The increase of trade allowed common people to be able to live more comfortably with luxuries that were never offered before. Items were being brought in by many different countries, new ideas were forming. This was the beginning of not only the Enlightenment Period, but the Commercial era as well. In London, we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and they had a very nice display of the eighteenth century. In one particular room they did a depiction of how the inside of an entertaining room would have looked like from the era. It had beautiful crown molding, a gorgeous fireplace, and fancy furnishings. The ceiling was the best part though. It was elaborately decorated with intricate molding and paintings.

The Parlour Room from II Henrietta Street, London

In Edinburgh, we visited two different wealthy homes. One of them was Gladstone’s Land. To me, it was so small and cramped together, but the antiquities in the home were only available to those with money. The ceiling in this home was also very elaborate. It had grapes and other fruit that people have never seen before. The home had furnishings that were quite expensive, and from overseas. I remember seeing a tiny mirror, but the tour guide told us that it still cost a lot of money and they were lucky to have a mirror that size. The Gladstone’s house did seem very small and confined to me, but we have to remember in Old Town Edinburgh they could not build out, they could only build up. One room had the bedroom, toilet (bowl), and was used to entertain company.

The other place I want to talk about that we saw in Edinburgh is the Georgian House. This house was in the New Town were architects could design outward instead of just up. I was very surprised to see not only how large it was, but how many luxurious antiquities this home held. I felt like I was in a house fit for royalty. Each room had a separate purpose, and the butler had a pretty large room to himself. The room that stuck out most to me was the kitchen. It was so large and had so many useful items. It even had a bread oven! The dining room was used to eat and entertain, and was full of lavish dinnerware. I saw multiple large mirrors. The bedroom was separate and even had its own fireplace.

In the Defoe reading, merchants and tradesmen were able to work their way up to “nobility”. The examples I have given are not from people who were born into royalty or money. They traded and used materialistic items to become wealthier than a common man. This gave a new way to become a powerful Englishman, and also a way to enjoy luxuries. Many of the best families in England came from trade. It was a quick way for families to become wealthy, and also a way for England to thrive as a country. It also helps other countries because now people in are buying items that had never been available.

Needless to say, the study abroad trip to London and Edinburgh was amazing. I not only had a lot of fun, but i got to experience learning about the eighteenth century hands on. For me, it makes it so much more interesting and easier to learn. This will be an experience I will never forget!

The Final Blog…

Our 2015 study abroad group by the Royal Observatory in London.

Our 2015 study abroad group by the Royal Observatory in London.

The cities of London and Edinburgh saw immense change in the 18th century.  The cities were changing from old to modern and picking up a lot of the same concepts we use today.  Trade became huge in this time, shaping what is known today as the middle class.  Before this, the social class was clearly defined as the “poor” and the “wealthy”.  There was no in-between but with the rise in trade, merchants began to fill that gap becoming what we know as the middle class.  One can see this happening through Defoe’s writing, “On Trade”.  Defoe is an English writer from the 18th century.  Defoe talks about how tradesman should be considered on the same level as noblemen.  Defoe states, “Nay, many of our trading gentlemen at this time refuse to be ennobled, scorn being knighted, and content themselves with being known to be rated among the richest commoners in the nation”.  He is saying how tradesmen are filling this gap and are rated among the “richest” of the common people, otherwise known as the lower class.  Tradesmen were not the only people to start filling this gap between the rich and the poor.  People of certain traits, such as doctors, architects, or etc.

An example of this rise of the middle class can be seen through Soane’s House, which we visited while in London.  Sir John

This is an outside view of Sir John Soane's house as pictures inside are not permitted.
This is an outside view of Sir John Soane’s house as pictures inside are not permitted.

Soane was an architect in the 18th century and designed many things, one in which was the Bank of London.  Soane was a collector in sorts, and his house was full of different items from around the world and different centuries.  His house ranged from paintings, sculptures from Greece, a Egyptian tomb and even a framed letter from the Royal Observatory to Soane for his achievements.  You can see Soane’s wealth through his collection of ancient artifacts.  Soane’s house acted as a modern day museum would.  He would open up his house to young men looking to embark of the Grand Tour.  Through Soane’s various collections, these young men would be able to get an idea of what they would be seeing on their Grand Tour.

I would recommend visiting this museum next time you find yourself in London.  What I loved about this museum is how it is left exactly as Soane had left it when he passed.  Before he passed he stated how he wanted the house to be left as it was when he passed.  Walking though the museum there is like traveling through different eras in history.  The museum is free, except to those who want a private tour. The basement, the main floor and the second floor is free to the public.

This picture is from Visit Scotland.  This is because photos were not permitted.

This picture is from Visit Scotland. This is because photos were not permitted.

Edinburgh also shows a rise of the middle class.  Edinburgh use to be smaller in size; this was called old town.  In the 1800’s Edinburgh decided to rebuild itself, calling this new part new town.  When we were in Edinburgh we visited this place called Gladstone’s Land.  Gladstone’s Land was refurbished to what it would have looked like back in the 18th century.  On the second floor they designed it to look like a richer middle class persons home.  Compared to the size of Soane’s house, this house was much smaller, and cramped in size.  The houses design is fit for the little bit of room people had in old town.  Gladstone’s Land was the one of the last middle class homes in old town until they built new town.  When new town was built many of the wealthier middle class moved to new town leaving old town to turn into what one would call a slum.  This house is a great example of the middle class rose above and created a name for themselves other than poor.

The difference between the middle class in London and the middle class in Edinburgh, is the middle class in Edinburgh is in close courters with the lower class.  In the reading “Humphrey Clinker” Bramble talks about his encounters when in Edinburgh.  He says, “All the people of business at Edinburgh, and even the genteel company, may be seen standing in crowds every day, from one to two in the afternoon, in the open street, at a place where formerly stood a market-cross […]”.  Bramble noticed how the old town in Edinburgh was cramped in space and how the middle class was intermingling with the lower class. In London each class has their own courters while in Edinburgh the poor are living on top of middle class.  Bramble also notice how the city of Edinburgh isn’t as sanitary as London as they threw their waste out the window.

The main difference I noticed in both houses, Soane’s house and Gladstone’s Land, is the ceilings.  I feel like back then people projected their wealth not only by what they owned but by the grandness of their ceilings.  The ceilings in London were, to me, much grander.  They were painted and carved with such intricate detail.  You could tell the importance of the owner of the house you were in by how many and to what degree of intricacy the ceilings were painted.  In Kensington Palace each ceiling looked to be done with such detail and it was truly amazing.  The ceilings in Edinburgh were either white or just painted.  The ceilings in Edinburgh resembled those found in France.

Putting my experience into words is hard to do.  It was such an amazing experience that not only taught us about 18th century English and Scottish literature, but also how to travel and deal with travel mishaps.  Our trip started off rough but once we stepped of the plane all our worries went to waste.  If anyone has ever though of doing a study abroad I would highly recommend it.  I say just sign your name to the list and be prepared to have one unforgettable experience.


This is one of the ceilings in Kensington Palace.

This is another ceiling from Kensington Palace.

This is another ceiling from Kensington Palace.